Citation Kubiak M & Tinsley MC (2017) Sex-specific routes to immune senescence in Drosophila melanogaster. Scientific Reports, 7, Art. No.: 10417. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-11021-6
Abstract Animal immune systems change dramatically during the ageing process, often accompanied by major increases in pathogen susceptibility. However, the extent to which senescent elevations in infection mortality are causally driven by deteriorations in canonical systemic immune processes is unclear. We studied Drosophila melanogaster and compared the relative contributions of impaired systemic immune defences and deteriorating barrier defences to increased pathogen susceptibility in aged flies. To assess senescent changes in systemic immune response efficacy we injected one and four-week old flies with the entomopathogenic fungus Beauveria bassiana and studied subsequent mortality; whereas to include the role of barrier defences we infected flies by dusting the cuticle with fungal spores. We show that the processes underlying pathogen defence senescence differ between males and females. Both sexes became more susceptible to infection as they aged. However, we conclude that for males, this was principally due to deterioration in barrier defences, whereas for females systemic immune defence senescence was mainly responsible. We discuss the potential roles of sex-specific selection on the immune system and behavioural variation between males and females in driving these different senescent trends.