Research Article: Age-related variation in immunity in a wild mammal population

Date Published: February , 2012

Publisher: Blackwell Publishing Ltd

Author(s): Daniel H Nussey, Kathryn Watt, Jill G Pilkington, Rose Zamoyska, Tom N McNeilly.


Age-related changes in immunity are well documented in humans and laboratory mammals. Using blood samples collected from wild Soay sheep, we show that pronounced differences in T-cell subsets and inflammatory markers amongst age classes are also evident under natural conditions. These shifts parallel those observed in mammals experiencing protected environments. We found progressive declines in the proportion of naïve CD4 T cells with age, a precipitous drop in γδ T cells after the second year of life and an increase in acute phase protein levels amongst geriatric sheep. Our findings suggest immune aging patterns observed in laboratory and domestic mammals may generalize to more complex, challenging environments and could have fitness costs under natural conditions.

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