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J Exp Biol. 2013 Feb 15;216(Pt 4):633-40. doi: 10.1242/jeb.078832. Epub 2012 Oct 17.

Humoral immune responses are maintained with age in a long-lived ectotherm, the red-eared slider turtle.

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  • 1School of Biological Sciences, Illinois State University, Normal, IL 61790, USA.


Aging is typically associated with a decrease in immune function. However, aging does not affect each branch of the immune system equally. Because of these varying effects of age on immune responses, aging could affect taxa differently based on how the particular taxon employs its resources towards different components of immune defense. An example of this is found in the humoral immune system. Specific responses tend to decrease with age while non-specific, natural antibody responses increase with age. Compared with mammals, reptiles of all ages have a slower and less robust humoral immune system. Therefore, they may invest more in non-specific responses and thus avoid the negative consequences of age on the immune system. We examined how the humoral immune system of reptiles is affected by aging and investigated the roles of non-specific, natural antibody responses and specific responses by examining several characteristics of antibodies against lipopolysaccharide (LPS) in the red-eared slider turtle. We found very little evidence of immunosenescence in the humoral immune system of the red-eared slider turtle, Trachemys scripta, which supports the idea that non-specific, natural antibody responses are an important line of defense in reptiles. Overall, this demonstrates that a taxon's immune strategy can influence how the immune system is affected by age.

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