Functional characterization of neotropical snakes peripheral blood leukocytes subsets: Linking flow cytometry cell features, microscopy images and serum corticosterone levels

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Reptiles are the unique ectothermic amniotes, providing the key link between ectothermic anamniotes fish and amphibians, and endothermic birds and mammals; becoming an important group to study with the aim of providing significant knowledge into the evolutionary history of vertebrate immunity. Classification systems for reptiles' leukocytes have been described by their appearance rather than function, being still inconsistent. With the advent of modern techniques and the establishment of analytical protocols for snakes' blood by flow cytometry, we bring a qualitative and quantitative assessment of innate activities presented by snakes' peripheral blood leukocytes, thereby linking flow cytometric features with fluorescent and light microscopy images. Moreover, since corticosterone is an important immunomodulator in reptiles, hormone levels of all blood samples were measured. We provide novel and additional information which should contribute to better understanding of the development of the immune system of reptiles and vertebrates.HighlightsFlow cytometric characterization of heterophils, lymphocytes and azurophils phagocytosis activities.Flow cytometric characterization of heterophils, lymphocytes and azurophils oxidative burst activities.Measurement of captive snakes serum corticosterone levels.

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