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Proc Biol Sci. 2007 Apr 7;274(1612):951-7.

Immunosenescence in some but not all immune components in a free-living vertebrate, the tree swallow.

Author information

  • 1Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology, Iowa State University, Ames, IA 50011, USA. mgp@iastate.edu

Abstract

A wide diversity of free-living organisms show increases in mortality rates and/or decreases in reproductive success with advancing age. However, the physiological mechanisms underlying these demographic patterns of senescence are poorly understood. Immunosenescence, the age-related deterioration of immune function, is well documented in humans and laboratory models, and often leads to increased morbidity and mortality due to disease. However, we know very little about immunosenescence in free-living organisms. Here, we studied immunosenescence in a free-living population of tree swallows, Tachycineta bicolor, assessing three components of the immune system and using both in vivo and in vitro immunological tests. Immune function in tree swallow females showed a complex pattern with age; acquired T-cell mediated immunity declined with age, but neither acquired nor innate humoral immunity did. In vitro lymphocyte proliferation stimulated by T-cell mitogens decreased with age, suggesting that reduced T-cell function might be one mechanism underlying the immunosenescence pattern of in vivo cell-mediated response recently described for this same population. Our results provide the most thorough description of immunosenescence patterns and mechanisms in a free-living vertebrate population to date. Future research should focus on the ecological implications of immunosenescence and the potential causes of variation in patterns among species.

PMID:
17251097
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC2141670
Free PMC Article
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