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Dynamics of anti-Borrelia antibodies in Black-legged Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla) chicks suggest a maternal educational effect

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In the presence of parasites, mothers can transfer specific immunoglobulins to their offspring. These antibodies are typically thought to provide protection until the juvenile produces its own immune response, but they may also act to educate the developing immune system so as to prepare the individual for future parasite challenge. We examined this hypothesis in a natural host–parasite system involving the Black-legged Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla (L., 1758)), the seabird tick (Ixodes (Ceratixodes) uriae White, 1852), and the Lyme disease bacterium (Borrelia burgdorferi s.l. (Johnston, 1984)). We compared the dynamics of anti-Borrelia antibodies in chicks between ages 5 and 20 days that received a large amount of maternal anti-Borrelia antibodies to those that did not. The results suggest that the presence of maternal antibodies against Borrelia increases the overall production of anti-Borrelia immunoglobulins by chicks and support the existence of an adaptive maternal effect. Experimental approaches are now called for to better appraise the ecological and evolutionary consequences of the maternal transfer of antibodies in host–parasite interactions.

En présence de parasites, les mères peuvent transmettre des anticorps spécifiques à leurs juvéniles. Ces anticorps sont susceptibles de conférer une protection temporaire contre le parasite jusqu’à ce que le juvénile soit capable de produire sa propre résistance immunologique. Cependant, ils pourraient aussi servir à éduquer le système immunitaire en développement, préparant ainsi le juvénile contre une future exposition à un parasite spécifique. Nous avons testé cette hypothèse dans un système hôte–parasite naturel impliquant la mouette tridactyle (Rissa tridactyla (L., 1758)), la tique des oiseaux de mer (Ixodes (Ceratixodes) uriae White, 1852) et l'agent bactérien de la maladie de Lyme (Borrelia burgdorferi s.l. (Johnston, 1984)). Nous avons comparé la dynamique des anticorps anti-Borrelia de l’âge de 5 et à l’âge de 20 jours chez des poussins qui avaient reçu une grande quantité d’anticorps anti-Borrelia d’origine maternelle à celle de poussins qui n’en n’ayant pas reçu une telle quantité. La présence de ces anticorps maternels chez les poussins est associée à une plus forte augmentation de leur production d’anticorps anti-Borrelia, suggérant ainsi l’existence d’un effet maternel éducateur et adaptatif. Des approches expérimentales sont maintenant nécessaires afin de valider cette hypothèse et de mieux comprendre les conséquences écologiques et évolutives d’un tel transfert d’anticorps maternels dans les systèmes hôte–parasite.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2006

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  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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