Physiological consequences of mating on immunity

Recent studies have shown that mating induces downregulation of immune function in males and females (e.g. Siva-Jothy et al., 1998; McKeen and Nunney, 2001), which does not appear to be caused by energetic demands. Whereas it is possible that the effects in McKeen and Nunney's (2001) study were linked to the copulatory wounding processes identified by Kamimura (2007), that seems unlikely in Siva-Jothy et al.'s (1998) study (however, the aedeagi of odonates are known to bear recurved spines that function in sperm competition (Corbet, 1999) and might therefore damage the female's genital tract). A physiological candidate for generating/mediating the observed reduction in immune function is juvenile hormone (e.g. Zera and Harshman, 2001) and Rolff and Siva-Jothy (2002) revealed that the endogenous release of this hormone stimulated by mating was responsible for reducing immune function after mating. Whereas immune and juvenile hormone function are conserved across insects, it is likely that in species where post-mating immune insult has serious costs, mechanisms will exist to minimize the effects of mating-induced, juvenile hormone-mediated, immune suppression; for example, Shoemaker et al. (2006) showed that cricket immune function was elevated by mating.

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