Sex-specific heritability of cell-mediated immune response in the blue tit nestlings (Cyanistes caeruleus)

J Evol Biol. 2010 Jun 1;23(6):1286-92. doi: 10.1111/j.1420-9101.2010.01993.x. Epub 2010 Apr 23.


Here, we aimed at estimating sex-specific heritabilities of cell-mediated immune response (CMI) in the blue tit nestlings (Cyanistes caeruleus). To separate genetic and environmental components of the phenotypic variance in CMI (measured using phytohaemagglutinin assay), we performed a cross-fostering experiment. Additionally, controlled environmental variation was introduced by enlarging some broods. Our analyses revealed a significant genetic component (as approximated by the nest-of-origin term) of the phenotypic variance in immune response. More importantly, these genetic effects differed between sexes and experimentally manipulated brood sizes, as indicated by significant genotype-by-sex and genotype-by-environment interactions. We discuss possible causes of such sexual dimorphism in gene expression and suggest that sex- and environment-specific genetic interactions may contribute to the maintenance of genetic variability in traits related to immune functions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Birds / immunology*
  • Female
  • Immunity, Cellular*
  • Male
  • Sex Factors*