PloS one

The fight-or-flight response is associated with PBMC expression profiles related to immune defence and recovery in swine.

PMID 25793368


Defining phenotypes according to molecular features would promote the knowledge of functional traits like behaviour in both human and animal research. Beside physiological states or environmental factors, an innate predisposition of individual coping strategies was discussed, including the proactive and reactive pattern. According to backtest reactivity, animals assigned as high-resisting (proactive) and low-resisting (reactive) were immune challenged with tetanus toxoid in a time course experiment. Using the Affymetrix platform and qPCR, individual coping characteristics were reflected as gene expression signatures in porcine peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) at naïve state (day 0) and in response to the model antigen (day 14, day 28, and day 140). Further, the blood cell count was analysed at all stages. On the transcriptional level, processes acting on cell communication, vasculogenesis, and blood coagulation were highlighted in high-resisting animals at naïve state (day 0), temporarily blurred due to immune challenge (day 14) but subsequently restored and intensified (day 28). Notably, similar amounts of white and red blood cells, platelets and haematocrit between high-resisting and low-resisting samples suggest coping-specific expression patterns rather than alterations in blood cell distribution. Taken together, the gene expression patterns indicate that proactive pigs might favour molecular pathways enabling an effective strategy for defence and recovery. This corroborates the previously suggested belief, that proactive animals are prone to an increased number of injuries as an evolutionary inherited mechanism. In contrast to previous assumptions, coping-specific immunity in pigs lacks inherited shifts between cellular and humoral immune responses.