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J Insect Physiol. 2007 Feb;53(2):146-56. Epub 2006 Nov 21.

Immunocompetence of Galleria mellonella: sex- and stage-specific differences and the physiological cost of mounting an immune response during metamorphosis.

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Laboratory for Developmental Physiology, Genomics and Proteomics, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Naamsestraat 59, B-3000 Leuven, Belgium.


The antibacterial immune response of the wax moth, Galleria mellonella, was analysed by use of an inhibition zone plate assay. We demonstrated significant stage-specific differences as the immune response was most effective in the pupal, next the larval and then the adult stage. In addition, we demonstrated that an immune challenge at the onset of, or during metamorphosis does not increase nor decrease the strength of the antibacterial immune response in the subsequent developmental stage(s). These findings illustrate that induced immunity is not preserved during metamorphosis but also deny any cost to the immune system itself. However, an immune challenge does induce a significant shortening of the direct development time and affects the mass loss during metamorphosis in a sex-dependent manner: males emerged smaller whereas the mass of females was not significantly affected. These observations indicate that there are sex-specific costs to mounting an immune response during metamorphosis which affect physiological traits, implicating a trade-off between immunity and development.

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