Predator exposure-induced immunosuppression: trade-off, immune redistribution or immune reconfiguration?

Shelley A. Adamo*, Russell H. Easy, Ilya Kovalko, Jenna MacDonald, Ashleigh McKeen, Taylor Swanburg, Kurtis F. Turnbull, Catherine Reeve

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Although predator exposure increases the risk of wound infections, it typically induces immunosuppression. A number of non-mutually exclusive hypotheses have been put forward to explain this immunosuppression, including: trade-offs between the immune system and other systems required for anti-predator behaviour, redistribution of immune resources towards mechanisms needed to defend against wound infections, and reconfiguration of the immune system to optimize defence under the physiological state of fight-orflight readiness. We tested the ability of each hypothesis to explain the effects of chronic predator stress on the immune system of the caterpillar Manduca sexta. Predator exposure induced defensive behaviours, reduced mass gain, increased development time and increased the concentration of the stress neurohormone octopamine. It had no significant effect on haemocyte number, melanization rate, phenoloxidase activity, lysozyme-like activity or nodule production. Predator stress reduced haemolymph glutathione concentrations. It also increased constitutive expression of the antimicrobial peptide attacin-1 but reduced attacin-1 expression in response to an immune challenge. These results best fit the immune reconfiguration hypothesis, although the other hypotheses are also consistent with some results. Interpreting stress-related changes in immune function may require an examination at the level of the whole organism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)868-875
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number5
Early online date23 Dec 2016
Publication statusPublished - 01 Mar 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd.

Copyright 2017 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Attacin
  • Chronic stress
  • Ecoimmunology
  • Glutathione
  • Octopamine
  • Phenoloxidase
  • Predation
  • Stress hormones

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Insect Science


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