Reproductive investment is connected to innate immunity in a long-lived animal

SA Neggazi, K Noreikiene, Markus Öst, K Jaatinen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Life-history theory predicts that organisms optimize their resource allocation strategy to maximize lifetime reproductive success. Individuals can flexibly reallocate resources depending on their life-history stage, and environmental and physiological factors, which lead to variable life-history strategies even within species. Physiological trade-offs between immunity and reproduction are particularly relevant for long-lived species that need to balance current reproduction against future survival and reproduction, but their underlying mechanisms are poorly understood. A major unresolved issue is whether the first-line innate immune function is suppressed by reproductive investment. In this paper, we tested if reproductive investment is associated with the suppression of innate immunity, and how this potential trade-off is resolved depending on physiological state and residual reproductive value. We used long-lived capital-breeding female eiders (Somateria mollissima) as a model. We showed that the innate immune response, measured by plasma bacteria-killing capacity (BKC), was negatively associated with increasing reproductive investment, i.e., with increasing clutch size and advancing incubation stage. Females in a better physiological state, as indexed by low heterophil-to-lymphocyte (H/L) ratios, showed higher BKC during early incubation, but this capacity decreased as incubation progressed, whereas females in poorer state showed low BKC capacity throughout incubation. Although plasma BKC generally declined with increasing H/L ratios, this decrease was most pronounced in young females. Our results demonstrate that reproductive investment can suppress constitutive first-line immune defence in a long-lived bird, but the degree of immunosuppression depends on physiological state and age.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)347–356
Number of pages10
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2016
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Bacteria-killing capacity
  • H/L ratio
  • Immunosuppression
  • Incubation stage
  • Somateria mollissima
  • Trade-offs

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