Mechanisms of changes in reptilian immune system

Body temperature is a salient factor regulating the performance of reptilian immunological functions. It must be noted in this regard that reptiles, in contrast to fish and amphibians, have become restricted in the temperature range over which physiological activities, including immune responses, can occur. Photo-periods, humidity and nutrition are also critical modulators of reptilian immune processes. Endogenous rhythmic factors that are not as yet characterized appear also to control immune reactivity independently of external conditions. Thus, it was not possible to induce thymus regeneration in winter reptiles even if they were maintained in optimal environmental conditions, including the species-specific preferred temperature.

Studies in lizards and turtles have documented that the impact of seasonal and other environmental factors on the immune system is mediated by fluctuations in levels of circulating corticosteroids and sex hormones. Therefore, reptiles represent unique natural models for studying the interrelations of the neuroendocrine immune systems in vertebrates.

See also: Bursa of Fabricius; IgE; IgG; IgM; MHC, evolution of; Mixed lymphocyte reaction (MLR); Phy-logeny of the immune response.

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