The influence of immune activation on thermal tolerance along a latitudinal cline

Tobias E. Hector, Carla M. Sgrò, Matthew D. Hall

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1 Citation (Scopus)


Global change is shifting both temperature patterns and the geographic distribution of pathogens, and infection has already been shown to substantially reduce host thermal performance, potentially placing populations at greater risk that previously thought. But what about individuals that are able to successfully clear an infection? Whilst the direct damage a pathogen causes will likely lead to reductions in host's thermal tolerance, the response to infection often shares many underlying pathways with the general stress response, potentially acting as a buffer against subsequent thermal stress. Here, by exposing Drosophila melanogaster to heat-killed bacterial pathogens, we investigate how activation of a host's immune system can modify any response to both heat and cold temperature stress. In a single focal population, we find that immune activation can improve a host's knockdown times during heat shock, potentially offsetting some of the damage that would subsequently arise as an infection progresses. Conversely, immune activation had a detrimental effect on CTmax and did not influence lower thermal tolerance as measured by chill-coma recovery time. However, we also find that the influence of immune activation on heat knockdown times is not generalizable across an entire cline of locally adapted populations. Instead, immune activation led to signals of local adaptation to temperature being lost, erasing the previous advantage that populations in warmer regions had when challenged with heat stress. Our results suggest that activation of the immune system may help buffer individuals against the detrimental impact of infection on thermal tolerance; however, any response will be population specific and potentially not easily predicted across larger geographic scales, and dependent on the form of thermal stress faced by a host.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1224-1234
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Evolutionary Biology
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2020


  • CT
  • disease
  • Drosophila melanogaster
  • global change
  • host-pathogen interactions
  • immune challenge
  • local adaptation
  • thermal adaptation
  • thermal limits
  • thermal stress

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