No Evidence for a Trade-Off between Reproductive Investment and Immunity in a Rodent
by Yan-Chao Xu, Deng-Bao Yang, De-Hua Wang
Life history theory assumes there are trade-offs between competing functions such as reproduction and immunity. Although well studied in birds, studies of the trade-offs between reproduction and immunity in small mammals are scarce. Here we examined whether reduced immunity is a consequence of reproductive effort in lactating Brandt’s voles (Lasiopodomys brandtii). Specifically, we tested the effects of lactation on immune function (Experiment I). The results showed that food intake and resting metabolic rate (RMR) were higher in lactating voles (6≤ litter size ≤8) than that in non-reproductive voles. Contrary to our expectation, lactating voles also had higher levels of serum total Immunoglobulin G (IgG) and anti-keyhole limpet hemocyanin (KLH) IgG and no change in phytohemagglutinin (PHA) response and anti-KLH Immunoglobulin M (IgM) compared with non-reproductive voles, suggesting improved rather than reduced immune function. To further test the effect of differences in reproductive investment on immunity, we compared the responses between natural large (n≥8) and small litter size (n≤6) (Experiment II) and manipulated large (11–13) and small litter size (2–3) (Experiment III). During peak lactation, acquired immunity (PHA response, anti-KLH IgG and anti-KLH IgM) was not significantly different between voles raising large or small litters in both experiments, despite the measured difference in reproductive investment (greater litter size, litter mass, RMR and food intake in the voles raising larger litters). Total IgG was higher in voles with natural large litter size than those with natural small litter size, but decreased in the enlarged litter size group compared with control and reduced group. Our results showed that immune function is not suppressed to compensate the high energy demands during lactation in Brandt’s voles and contrasting the situation in birds, is unlikely to be an important aspect mediating the trade-off between reproduction and survival.
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Syndicated from:PLoS ONE
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