Functionally distinct T-helper cell phenotypes predict resistance to different types of parasites in a wild mammal

Yolanda Corripio-Miyar, Adam Hayward, Hannah Lemon, Amy R. Sweeny, Xavier Bal, Fiona Kenyon, Jill G. Pilkington, Josephine M. Pemberton, Daniel H. Nussey, Tom N. McNeilly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The adaptive immune system is critical to an effective response to infection in vertebrates, with T-helper (Th) cells pivotal in orchestrating these responses. In natural populations where co-infections are the norm, different Th responses are likely to play an important role in maintaining host health and fitness, a relationship which remains poorly understood in wild animals. In this study, we characterised variation in functionally distinct Th responses in a wild population of Soay sheep by enumerating cells expressing Th-subset specific transcription factors and quantifying Th-associated cytokines. We tested the prediction that raised Th1 and Th2 responses should predict reduced apicomplexan and helminth parasite burdens, respectively. All measures of Th-associated cytokine production increased with age, while Th17- and regulatory Th-associated cytokine production increased more rapidly with age in males than females. Independent of age, sex, and each other, IL-4 and Gata3 negatively predicted gastro-intestinal nematode faecal egg count, while IFN-γ negatively predicted coccidian faecal oocyst count. Our results provide important support from outside the laboratory that Th1 and Th2 responses predict resistance to different kinds of parasites, and illustrate how harnessing specific reagents and tools from laboratory immunology will illuminate our understanding of host-parasite interactions in the wild.
Original languageEnglish
Article number3197
Number of pages12
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 24 Feb 2022


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