Unravelling the relationship between animal growth and immune response during micro-parasitic infections

A.B. Doeschl-Wilson, W. Brindle, G. Emmans, I. Kyriazakis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

BACKGROUND: Both host genetic potentials for growth and disease resistance, as well as nutrition are known to affect responses of individuals challenged with micro-parasites, but their interactive effects are difficult to predict from experimental studies alone. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Here, a mathematical model is proposed to explore the hypothesis that a host's response to pathogen challenge largely depends on the interaction between a host's genetic capacities for growth or disease resistance and the nutritional environment. As might be expected, the model predicts that if nutritional availability is high, hosts with higher growth capacities will also grow faster under micro-parasitic challenge, and more resistant animals will exhibit a more effective immune response. Growth capacity has little effect on immune response and resistance capacity has little effect on achieved growth. However, the influence of host genetics on phenotypic performance changes drastically if nutrient availability is scarce. In this case achieved growth and immune response depend simultaneously on both capacities for growth and disease resistance. A higher growth capacity (achieved e.g. through genetic selection) would be detrimental for the animal's ability to cope with pathogens and greater resistance may reduce growth in the short-term. SIGNIFICANCE: Our model can thus explain contradicting outcomes of genetic selection observed in experimental studies and provides the necessary biological background for understanding the influence of selection and/or changes in the nutritional environment on phenotypic growth and immune response.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere7508
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2009

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Animals Animals, Domestic Biological Processes Computer Simulation Growth/ physiology Host-Parasite Interactions/immunology/ physiology Immune System Immune System Processes Models, Genetic Models, Theoretical Parasitic Diseases/immunology Phenotype Physiological Processes/genetics Population Dynamics


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