Maternal pathogen exposure causes diet- and pathogen-specific transgenerational costs
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Transgenerational effects, whereby the environment experienced by a parent leads to an altered offspring phenotype, have now been described in a variety of taxa. In invertebrates, much of the research on these effects has concentrated on the role of parental exposure to pathogens or immune elicitors in determining offspring immune investment or disease resistance. To date, however, studies of transgenerational effects in invertebrates have generally been restricted to single infections or immune elicitors in ideal laboratory environments. Animals in field situations will commonly experience sub-optimal environments and co-infection by multiple species of parasites and pathogens, leading to increased relative costs of immune investment and changing fitness benefits from offspring responses to the parental environment. Here we investigate a more ecologically realistic scenario involving both multiple infections and resource limitation, using the Indian meal moth Plodia interpunctella as a model host, challenged with the entomopathogenic bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis and fungus Beauveria bassiana. Mothers were exposed to low doses of one or both pathogens, or a control. Offspring from each family were reared on either good- or poor-quality food and then exposed to one or both pathogens. Maternal exposure to pathogens led to reduced pathogen resistance in offspring, depending on the combination of maternal and offspring pathogen-specific infections and resource limitation in the offspring generation. Much research to date has focussed on trans-generational immune priming, in which parental exposure to pathogens or immune elicitors leads to upregulated immune reactivity in their offspring. The lack of any such effects in our system suggests that the production of less resistant offspring following parental exposure to pathogens might be an important alternative, driven by costs of resistance rather than adaptive benefits.
AuthorsLittlefair, JE; Laughton, A; KNELL, RJ
- Genomic Medicine