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J Exp Biol. 2013 Jun 15;216(Pt 12):2213-20. doi: 10.1242/jeb.083154. Epub 2013 Mar 7.

Loss of integration is associated with reduced resistance to oxidative stress.

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  • 1Institute for Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine, Graham Kerr Building, College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ, UK.


One cellular mechanism thought to be particularly important as a constraint on lifespan and life-history strategies is oxidative stress. Susceptibility to oxidative stress is influenced by a number of antioxidant defences, whose effectiveness depends on the synergistic and competitive interactions among them (biochemical integration). It is generally assumed that exposure to oxidative stress is detrimental, but it is also possible that low level oxidative stress has a positive effect on integration, and therefore carries some benefits. Using three experimental groups of zebra finches (control, mild and high flight activity), we tested whether exercise-induced oxidative stress altered the integration of the pro-oxidant/antioxidant system by manipulating levels of flight activity, known to generate oxidative stress in birds. We show for the first time that a short-term high level of physical activity leads to a reduction in integration among components of the blood antioxidant defences, associated with a reduced resistance to oxidative stress. We found no evidence of improved integration in the antioxidant defences at low levels of oxidative stress exposure, suggesting that improved integration is not the route whereby any benefits of low level stress exposure occur. These findings point to a reduction in biochemical integration as a potential mechanism explaining a reduced resistance to oxidative stress induced by short-term stressors.


antioxidants; birds; flight effort; oxidative damage; vertebrates

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