Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS:
Title: Evolutionary genetics of immunity to helminths in wild Soay sheep
Author: Sparks, Alexandra Megan
ISNI:       0000 0004 7230 4716
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2018
Availability of Full Text:
Access from EThOS:
Full text unavailable from EThOS. Please try the link below.
Access from Institution:
Parasites have a major impact on host condition and fitness and thereby represent a strong selective force for individuals in wild populations. The main defence against parasite infection and associated morbidity is the host immune response, and consequently it is expected for there to be strong selection eroding genetic variation underlying immune responses in natural populations. However, studies in the wild have found considerable heritable variation underlying immune responses. Few studies have investigated the genetic variants underlying immunity in wild populations and are able to examine how genetic variation is maintained in the face of natural selection. The aim of this thesis is to investigate the selection on, and genetic variation underlying, immunity in a wild Soay sheep population by looking at antibody responses to the prevalent parasite Teladorsagia circumcincta. Anti- T. circumcincta antibody levels (IgA, IgE, IgG) were measured in neonatal plasma samples taken soon after birth, representing maternally-derived antibodies, and in samples from August yearly from four month old lambs and adults, representing endogenous antibodies. All three endogenously produced antibody measures in lambs and adults were repeatable and heritable. In addition, a genome wide association study run on the three antibody traits on August lamb and adult measures found associations between anti-T. circumcincta IgA levels and single nucleotide polymorphisms in a region on chromosome 24. There was evidence for age- and isotype- dependent negative associations between antibody isotypes and strongyle faecal egg counts (FEC). Further, there was evidence for age-dependent selection via positive associations between anti-T. circumcincta IgG and survival in females and annual fecundity in males. In comparison, there was no additive genetic variance underlying maternally-derived (neonatal) anti-T. circumcincta antibody levels in neonates, but maternal and maternal genetic effects explained a considerable proportion of the variance in these traits. There was evidence for associations between neonatal anti-T. circumcincta IgG and later offspring phenotype and fitness, independent of total antibody (IgG) transferred. We found that neonatal anti-T. circumcincta IgG levels positively predicted survival to four months old, as well as weight in August. In addition, neonatal anti-T. circumcincta IgG levels were associated with reduced strongyle FEC in August, and were associated with improved survival over the first winter. In early life, maternally-derived anti-helminth antibodies are important for early growth, survival, and parasite resistance, as well as first winter survival, while fitness benefits in adulthood were associated with higher endogenous anti-helminth antibody levels. This thesis illustrates that maternal effects and genetic variation can have strong effects on variation in immunity in the wild, and this variation in turn can have health and fitness consequences for individuals.
Supervisor: Nussey, Daniel ; Johnston, Susan ; Zamoyska, Rose Sponsor: Medical Research Council (MRC)
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: immune responses ; Soay sheep ; Teladorsagia circumcincta ; IgA ; maternally-derived anti-parasite antibodies