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Impacts of short-term food restriction on immune development in altricial house sparrow nestlings.

Posted by on in 2015
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  • Killpack TL1Carrel EKarasov WH2015. Physiol Biochem Zool. 88(2):195-207. doi: 10.1086/680168. Epub 2015 Jan 28.
  • 1Department of Zoology, University of Wisconsin, 1630 Linden Drive, Madison, Wisconsin 53706; 2Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology, University of Wisconsin, 1630 Linden Drive, Madison, Wisconsin 53706.


Substantial development of the immune system occurs during the nestling period, yet the resource dependence of this immune development is understudied. We examined constitutive immune system development as well as acute-phase responses to lipopolysaccharide (LPS) injection after 48 h of food restriction in house sparrows at 7 and 13 d posthatch. We also examined nestlings that were restricted early (5-7 d) but refed and tested at 13 d posthatch to determine whether altered immune function and growth early in the nestling period were recovered upon return to adequate resource supply. Induced acute-phase protein response was reduced in food-restricted birds, yet no lasting reductions in acute-phase protein levels were observed in previously restricted nestlings that were challenged with LPS after refeeding. Food restriction did not significantly impact constitutive levels of complement-mediated lysis or circulating IgY antibodies. As a comparator to immune measures, we found that organ and tarsus size, as well as muscle size and citrate synthase enzyme activity (an index of muscle cellular aerobic capacity), were significantly reduced in food-restricted nestlings. Reductions in flight muscle mass and function persisted in birds refed after early food restriction, which may have contributed to persistent body temperature reductions observed in refed birds.

[PubMed - in process]
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