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Age-specific relationships between immunity and life-history traits in a wild mammal

Abstract : Immunity determines an organism’s sensitivity to pathogens and parasites and thus represent a crucial function that affects survival of individuals in the wild. However, this function represents several energy costs for development and use, and in natural conditions, resources are limited. Organisms consequently face energy allocation trade-offs between costly functions such as immunity, growth or reproduction. On the long term, these allocations are supposed to have serious consequences on probability of individuals to reproduce and to survive at each age.The aim of this thesis was to describe age-related variations of immune phenotype in a wild and long-lived mammal, the roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), and to provide a better understanding of energy trade-offs between immune function and other life-history traits. This thesis was conducted in roe deer of both sexes and from two natural populations, which allow to test the influence of sex and contrasting environmental conditions on these variations.We first described that rapid growth did not impair the development of young roe deer immune phenotype (levels of innate and adaptive traits), neither on the short-term (during growth), neither on the long-term (during adulthood). We also proved that immune development of juveniles was not dependent of maternal age, but was strongly influenced by maternal body condition. In adult roe deer, we have described the precise patterns of age-related changes in ten immune traits reflecting both innate and adaptive immunity. It revealed that roe deer are subjected to profound changes in their immune profile with increasing age, i.e. an increase in the production of inflammatory markers (haptoglobin, beta-globulin) and a decrease in the adaptive response (lymphocytes). In the same individuals, the parallel increase with age of parasite load supports the idea that deer are subject to immunosenescence. Finally, we described age-related changes in leukocyte telomere length. We found no associations between telomere length and proportions of each leukocyte form (neutrophils, monocytes, lymphocytes). However, we observed that high levels of some inflammatory markers (beta- and alpha1-globulin) tend to be associated with short telomeres in immune cells. These results open many avenues for a better understanding of the physiological mechanisms underlying aging
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Louise Cheynel. Age-specific relationships between immunity and life-history traits in a wild mammal. Ecology, environment. Université de Lyon, 2018. English. ⟨NNT : 2018LYSE1273⟩. ⟨tel-02073189⟩

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