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Am J Physiol. 1997 Nov;273(5):R1631-7. doi: 10.1152/ajpregu.1997.273.5.R1631.

Metabolic costs of mounting an antigen-stimulated immune response in adult and aged C57BL/6J mice.

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Department of Psychology, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland 21218, USA.


Animals must balance their energy budget despite seasonal changes in both energy availability and physiological expenditures. Immunity, in addition to growth, thermoregulation, and cellular maintenance, requires substantial energy to maintain function, although few studies have directly tested the energetic cost of immunity. The present study assessed the metabolic costs of an antibody response. Adult and aged male C5BL/6J mice were implanted with either empty Silastic capsules or capsules filled with melatonin and injected with either saline or keyhole limpet hemocyanin (KLH). O2 consumption was monitored periodically throughout antibody production using indirect calorimetry. KLH-injected mice mounted significant immunoglobulin G (IgG) responses and consumed more O2 compared with animals injected with saline. Melatonin treatment increased O2 consumption in mice injected with saline but suppressed the increased metabolic rate associated with an immune response in KLH-injected animals. Melatonin had no effect on immune response to KLH. Adult and aged mice did not differ in antibody response or metabolic activity. Aged mice appear unable to maintain sufficient heat production despite comparable O2 production to adult mice. These results suggest that mounting an immune response requires significant energy and therefore requires using resources that could otherwise be allocated to other physiological processes. Energetic trade-offs are likely when energy demands are high (e.g., during winter, pregnancy, or lactation). Melatonin appears to play an adaptive role in coordinating reproductive, immunologic, and energetic processes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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