Altitudinal Effects on Innate Immune Response of a Subterranean Rodent

Solak, Halil Mert
Yanchukov, Alexey
Colak, Faruk
Sozen, Mustafa
Ayanoğlu, İhsan Cihan
Winternitz, Jamie C.
Immune defense is costly to maintain and deploy, and the optimal investment into immune defense depends on risk of infection. Altitude is a natural environmental factor that is predicted to affect parasite abundance, with lower parasite abundance predicted at higher altitudes due to stronger environmental stressors, which reduce parasite transmission. Using high and low altitude populations of the Turkish blind mole-rat (TBMR) Nannospalax xanthodon, we tested for effects of altitude on constitutive innate immune defense. Field studies were performed with 32 wild animals in 2017 and 2018 from two low- and one high-altitude localities in the Central Taurus Mountains, at respective altitudes of 1010 m, 1115 m, and 2900 m above sea level. We first compared innate standing immune defense as measured by the bacteria-killing ability of blood serum. We then measured corticosterone stress hormone levels, as stressful conditions may affect immune response. Finally, we compared prevalence and intensity of gastrointestinal parasites of field-captured TBMR. We found that the bacteria-killing ability of serum is greater in the mole-rat samples from high altitude. There was no significant difference in stress (corticosterone) levels between altitude categories. Coccidian prevalence and abundance were significantly higher in 2017 than 2018 samples, but there was no significant difference in prevalence, abundance, or intensity between altitudes, or between sexes. Small sample sizes may have reduced power to detect true differences; nevertheless, this study provides support that greater standing innate immunity in high altitude animals may reflect greater investment into constitutive defense.

Citation Formats
H. M. Solak et al., “Altitudinal Effects on Innate Immune Response of a Subterranean Rodent,” ZOOLOGICAL SCIENCE, vol. 37, no. 1, pp. 31–41, 2020, Accessed: 00, 2020. [Online]. Available: