Is testosterone immunosuppressive in a condition-dependent manner? An experimental test in blue tits

Mark Roberts, Anne Peters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

43 Citations (Scopus)


In this experiment we manipulated testosterone (T) and condition in juvenile male blue tits (Cyanistes caeruleus) during the moult, to test whether T s supposed immunosuppressive qualities are condition-dependent. To achieve this, we used T and control implants in combination with a dietary manipulation. We measured responses to both phytohaemagglutinin (PHA) and humoral immune challenges during the period of the treatments (moult) and also in the following breeding season (spring). During moult, males fed the enhanced diet were in better condition but there was no difference in humoral response between the dietary groups. T males produced a greater humoral antibody response than control (C) males. In the spring, males that had been previously treated with high T again exhibited higher antibody responses than C males. High T levels during moult were associated with a low PHA response but only in males with low body mass: heavier males that had high T exhibited the highest PHA responses. In the spring, the pattern of PHA responses was reversed; responses were highest in males that had low body mass but also had high T levels, and the lowest responses were by males that had both high T and were relatively heavy. Our results suggest that the effects of T on immunity can be either immunoenhancing or immunosuppressive, depending upon the condition of the individual, its life history stage, as well as on the immune challenge employed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1811 - 1818
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes

Cite this