A marker of biological age explains individual variation in the strength of the adult stress response

Andrews, C., Nettle, D., Larriva, M., Gillespie, R., Reichert, S., Brilot, B. O., Bedford, T., Monaghan, P. , Spencer, K. A. and Bateson, M. (2017) A marker of biological age explains individual variation in the strength of the adult stress response. Royal Society Open Science, 4(9), 171208. (doi: 10.1098/rsos.171208) (PMID:28989794) (PMCID:PMC5627134)

[img]
Preview
Text
150275.pdf - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

681kB

Abstract

The acute stress response functions to prioritize behavioural and physiological processes that maximize survival in the face of immediate threat. There is variation between individuals in the strength of the adult stress response that is of interest in both evolutionary biology and medicine. Age is an established source of this variation-stress responsiveness diminishes with increasing age in a range of species-but unexplained variation remains. Since individuals of the same chronological age may differ markedly in their pace of biological ageing, we asked whether biological age-measured here via erythrocyte telomere length-predicts variation in stress responsiveness in adult animals of the same chronological age. We studied two cohorts of European starlings in which we had previously manipulated the rate of biological ageing by experimentally altering the competition experienced by chicks in the fortnight following hatching. We predicted that individuals with greater developmental telomere attrition, and hence greater biological age, would show an attenuated corticosterone (CORT) response to an acute stressor when tested as adults. In both cohorts, we found that birds with greater developmental telomere attrition had lower peak CORT levels and a more negative change in CORT levels between 15 and 30 min following stress exposure. Our results, therefore, provide strong evidence that a measure of biological age explains individual variation in stress responsiveness: birds that were biologically older were less stress responsive. Our results provide a novel explanation for the phenomenon of developmental programming of the stress response: observed changes in stress physiology as a result of exposure to early-life adversity may reflect changes in ageing.

Item Type:Articles
Keywords:Sturnus vulgaris, biological age, corticosterone, early-life adversity, stress response, telomere.
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Monaghan, Professor Pat and Gillespie, Mr Robert and Reichert, Dr Sophie and Spencer, Dr Karen
Authors: Andrews, C., Nettle, D., Larriva, M., Gillespie, R., Reichert, S., Brilot, B. O., Bedford, T., Monaghan, P., Spencer, K. A., and Bateson, M.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Biodiversity Animal Health and Comparative Medicine
Journal Name:Royal Society Open Science
Publisher:The Royal Society
ISSN:2054-5703
ISSN (Online):2054-5703
Published Online:27 September 2017
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2017 The Authors
First Published:First published in Royal Society Open Science 4(9): 171208
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License
Data DOI:10.5281/zenodo.846830

University Staff: Request a correction | Enlighten Editors: Update this record

Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
590411Early life adversity, telomere length and adult cognition: the starling as an experimental modelPatricia MonaghanBiotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)BB/J015091/1RI BIODIVERSITY ANIMAL HEALTH & COMPMED
545091ECOTELO - The ecological significance of telomere dynamics:environments, individuals and inheritancePatricia MonaghanEuropean Research Council (ERC)20100317/FP7-268926RI BIODIVERSITY ANIMAL HEALTH & COMPMED