Social stress increases the susceptibility to infection in the ant Harpegnathos saltator

Sci Rep. 2016 May 10;6:25800. doi: 10.1038/srep25800.


Aggressive interactions between members of a social group represent an important source of social stress with all its negative follow-ups. We used the ponerine ant Harpegnathos saltator to study the effects of frequent aggressive interactions on the resistance to different stressors. In these ants, removal or death of reproducing animals results in a period of social instability within the colony that is characterized by frequent ritualized aggressive interactions leading to the establishment of a new dominance structure. Animals are more susceptible to infections during this period, whereas their resistance against other stressors remained unchanged. This is associated with a shift from glutathione-S-transferase activities towards glutathione peroxidase activities, which increases the antioxidative capacity at the expense of their immune competence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aggression
  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / metabolism
  • Ants / microbiology*
  • Ants / physiology*
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Catalase / metabolism
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Enterobacteriaceae Infections / pathology*
  • Erwinia / physiology
  • Glutathione Transferase / metabolism
  • Paraquat / toxicity
  • Reproduction
  • Social Behavior*
  • Superoxide Dismutase / metabolism
  • Survival Analysis
  • Time Factors


  • Antioxidants
  • Catalase
  • Superoxide Dismutase
  • Glutathione Transferase
  • Paraquat