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Keywords:

  • Aedes aegypti;
  • cost of immunity;
  • melanization

Abstract

Although host immunity offers the obvious benefit of reducing parasite infection, it is often traded-off with other fitness components. We investigated whether the cost of an immune response in the yellow fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti, is modulated by the antigen that activates the melanization immune response. Thus, one of three different novel antigens were injected into the mosquito's thorax – either a glass bead, a negatively charged (C-25) Sephadex bead, or a neutral (G-25) Sephadex bead – and fecundity and bead melanization were observed. Glass beads are immunologically inert and were therefore used as an inoculation control. The fecundity of mosquitoes inoculated with these beads did not differ from the fecundity of mosquitoes that did not melanize negatively charged or neutral beads. The ability of A. aegypti to melanize negatively charged Sephadex beads was associated with reduced fecundity, showing a clear cost of immunity. In contrast, melanization of the neutral beads was quite strong but had no effect on fecundity. Thus, the cost of what appeared to be the same immune response – melanization of a bead – depended on the type of bead that stimulated the immune system. Such differences might help to explain variation of immune efficacy against different parasites in natural populations.