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Comparative Immunology of Marine Mammals

Original Research ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Immunol. | doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2019.01219

Insights into cetacean immunology: Do ecological and biological factors make the difference?

  • 1Department of Physical, Earth and the Environmental Sciences, University of Siena, Italy
  • 2Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Teramo, Italy
  • 3Department of Comparative Biomedicine and Food, University of Padova, Italy

The aim of this study was to evaluate the expression of Major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I chain-related protein A (MICA) in fibroblast cell cultures of cetaceans (skin biopsies of free-ranging specimens and skin samples of freshly stranded cetaceans) by an immunofluorescence technique and to outline possible variations in MICA expression linked to different ecological and biological factors, while also investigating MICA expression after in vitro treatments with different contaminants. Free-ranging or stranded specimens of cetaceans were sampled in the Sea of Cortez (Mexico) (Balaenoptera edeni, Delphinus capensis and Orcinus orca) and in the Mediterranean Sea (Balaenoptera physalus, Physeter macrocephalus, Tursiops truncatus and Stenella coeruleoalba). Cell cultures were treated with an OC mixture, flame retardants, PAHs, MeHg and BPA. The 3 species from the Sea of Cortez showed higher basal activity of MICA and lower levels of DDTs and PCBs than the Mediterranean species. A Pearson's linear coefficient equal to -0.45 also confirmed this tendency to have high levels of MICA and low total OC levels. Treatment of cultured fibroblasts with different contaminants mostly resulted in the upregulation of MICA protein expression by at least one treatment dose; downregulation was also found in some species or treatments. MICA alteration indicates a state of stress of the organism and a modification of the immune system's response and can be proposed as a noninvasive immunological marker that can be measured in skin biopsy samples, thus offering a good alternative to blood measurements.

Keywords: MICA, Cetaceans, OCS, PBDEs, PAHs, MeHg, BPA

Received: 08 Jan 2019; Accepted: 13 May 2019.

Edited by:

Mike Criscitiello, Texas A&M University, United States

Reviewed by:

Hai-peng Liu, Xiamen University, China
LUIGI ABELLI, University of Ferrara, Italy  

Copyright: © 2019 Marsili, Di Guardo, Mazzariol and Casini. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Prof. Letizia Marsili, Department of Physical, Earth and the Environmental Sciences, University of Siena, Siena, Tuscany, Italy,