Photoperiod but not food restriction modulates innate immunity in an opportunistic breeder, Loxia curvirostra.
1. Organisms must contend with seasonal fluctuations in energy availability. To maintain a positive energy balance year-round, a number of adaptations have evolved including seasonal changes in reproduction, energetics and immunity. Photoperiod is the primary environmental signal most animals use to predict seasonal events. Despite the established link between energetics and immune function, little is known regarding how changes in energy availability affect immunity. 2. The goal of the present study was to determine the effects of food restriction on photoperiodic changes in reproduction and immune function in the Siberian hamster ( Phodopus sungorus ). Adult hamsters were housed in long or short days and were food restricted or fed ad libitum . Immune responses were quantified by measuring specific antibody production and bacterial killing capacity. 3. Food restriction decreased body and relative reproductive masses in long-day animals. Antibody responses, but not bacterial killing ability, were enhanced in food restricted short-day animals as compared with ad libitum fed controls. We also found differential effects of body fat on immune responses depending on the immune measure. 4. The effects of food restriction on immune function appear to vary based on the restriction regimen, the response measured, and the physiological state of the organism including energy balance, metabolic rate and reproductive status. 5. In conclusion, these results suggest that a wide range of factors can differentially affect immune function. In addition, these effects may vary based on the specific response examined. Future studies should include a variety of measurements to provide a more integrative and accurate picture of reproductive, energetic, and photoperiodic effects on immune function.