Egg desiccation leads to dehydration and enhanced innate immunity in python embryos


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Abstract

The immune system is essential for survival and its performance can vary depending on the physiological state of the organism. Much of the current research into immune function dynamics has examined newborn to adult life stages, despite previous studies documenting physiological responses in embryos to environmental stimuli. While energy balance has been the predominant focus as the driver of changes in immune function, recent research has found a positive relationship between dehydration and innate immune performance in adult reptiles. We expanded the understanding of this relationship by examining trans-generational immune effects of female dehydration as well as the effects of egg desiccation on embryonic hydration state and innate immunity using Children's pythons, Antaresia childreni. We used a 2 × 2 experiment with hydrated or dehydrated mothers and eggs either incubated under continuous optimal conditions or experiencing desiccating conditions for 24 h. Our results demonstrate that, similar to adults, embryos enhance some metrics of innate immunity when they are dehydrated.HighlightsEnvironmental factors can influence the experience of embryos.Multiple species of adult squamate have enhanced immune function when dehydrated.We experimentally manipulated embryonic water availability during development.Results show that desiccating conditions lead to dehydrated embryos.These embryos, in turn, have enhanced aspects of innate immunity.

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