Significant decline in anticancer immune capacity during puberty in the Tasmanian devil
Web of Science
AuthorCheng, Y; Heasman, K; Peck, S; Peel, E; Gooley, RM; Papenfuss, AT; Hogg, CJ; Belov, K
Source TitleScientific Reports
PublisherNATURE PUBLISHING GROUP
University of Melbourne Author/sPapenfuss, Anthony
AffiliationMedical Biology (W.E.H.I.)
Document TypeJournal Article
CitationsCheng, Y., Heasman, K., Peck, S., Peel, E., Gooley, R. M., Papenfuss, A. T., Hogg, C. J. & Belov, K. (2017). Significant decline in anticancer immune capacity during puberty in the Tasmanian devil. SCIENTIFIC REPORTS, 7 (1), https://doi.org/10.1038/srep44716.
Access StatusOpen Access
Tasmanian devils (Sarcophilus harrisii) are at risk of extinction in the wild due to Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD), a rare contagious cancer. The prevalence of DFTD differs by age class: higher disease prevalence is seen in adults (2-3 years) versus younger devils (<2 years). Here we propose that immunological changes during puberty may play a role in susceptibility to DFTD. We show that the second year of life is a key developmental period for Tasmanian devils, during which they undergo puberty and pronounced changes in the immune system. Puberty coincides with a significant decrease in lymphocyte abundance resulting in a much higher neutrophil:lymphocyte ratio in adults than subadults. Quantitative PCR analysis of gene expression of transcription factors T-bet and GATA-3 and cytokines interferon gamma (IFN-γ) and interleukin 4 (IL-4) revealed a drastic increase in GATA-3 and IL-4 expression during puberty. These changes led to a significantly lower IFN-γ:IL-4 ratio in 2-year-olds than <1 year olds (on average 1.3-fold difference in males and 4.0-fold in females), which reflects a major shift of the immune system towards Th2 responses. These results all indicate that adult devils are expected to have a lower anticancer immune capacity than subadults, which may explain the observed pattern of disease prevalence of DFTD in the wild.
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