Fitness correlates of blubber oxidative stress and cellular defences in grey seals (Halichoerus grypus): support for the life history-oxidative stress theory from an animal model of simultaneous lactation and fasting

Holly C. Armstrong*, Debbie JF Russell, Simon Moss, Patrick Pomeroy, Kimberley A. Bennett

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Abstract

Life-history-oxidative stress theory predicts that elevated energy costs during reproduction reduce allocation to defences and increase cellular stress, with fitness consequences, particularly when resources are limited. As capital breeders, grey seals are a natural system in which to test this theory. We investigated oxidative damage (malondialdehyde (MDA) concentration) and cellular defences (relative mRNA abundance of heat shock proteins (Hsps) and redox enzymes (REs)) in blubber of wild female grey seals during the lactation fast (n = 17) and summer foraging (n = 13). Transcript abundance of Hsc70 increased, and Nox4, a pro-oxidant enzyme, decreased throughout lactation. Foraging females had higher mRNA abundance of some Hsps and lower RE transcript abundance and MDA concentrations, suggesting they experienced lower oxidative stress than lactating mothers, which diverted resources into pup rearing at the expense of blubber tissue damage. Lactation duration and maternal mass loss rate were both positively related to pup weaning mass. Pups whose mothers had higher blubber glutathione-S-transferase (GST) expression at early lactation gained mass more slowly. Higher glutathione peroxidase (GPx) and lower catalase (CAT) were associated with longer lactation but reduced maternal transfer efficiency and lower pup weaning mass. Cellular stress, and the ability to mount effective cellular defences, could proscribe lactation strategy in grey seal mothers and thus affect pup survival probability. These data support the life-history-oxidative stress hypothesis in a capital breeding mammal and suggest lactation is a period of heightened vulnerability to environmental factors that exacerbate cellular stress. Fitness consequences of stress may thus be accentuated during periods of rapid environmental change.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)551-566
Number of pages16
JournalCell Stress and Chaperones
Volume28
Issue number5
Early online date18 Mar 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2023

Keywords

  • Cellular stress
  • Cellular chaperone
  • Adipose
  • Trade off
  • Pinniped

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