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Proc Biol Sci. 2013 Jan 8;280(1754):20122636. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2012.2636. Print 2013 Mar 7.

Selection for increased mass-independent maximal metabolic rate suppresses innate but not adaptive immune function.

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  • 1Program in Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation Biology, University of Nevada, Reno, NV 89557, USA.


Both appropriate metabolic rates and sufficient immune function are essential for survival. Consequently, eco-immunologists have hypothesized that animals may experience trade-offs between metabolic rates and immune function. Previous work has focused on how basal metabolic rate (BMR) may trade-off with immune function, but maximal metabolic rate (MMR), the upper limit to aerobic activity, might also trade-off with immune function. We used mice artificially selected for high mass-independent MMR to test for trade-offs with immune function. We assessed (i) innate immune function by quantifying cytokine production in response to injection with lipopolysaccharide and (ii) adaptive immune function by measuring antibody production in response to injection with keyhole limpet haemocyanin. Selection for high mass-independent MMR suppressed innate immune function, but not adaptive immune function. However, analyses at the individual level also indicate a negative correlation between MMR and adaptive immune function. By contrast BMR did not affect immune function. Evolutionarily, natural selection may favour increasing MMR to enhance aerobic performance and endurance, but the benefits of high MMR may be offset by impaired immune function. This result could be important in understanding the selective factors acting on the evolution of metabolic rates.

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