Surveillance for Microbes and Range Expansion in House Sparrows

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date


Publication Title

Proceedings of the Royal Society B.






Interactions between hosts and parasites influence the success of host introductions and range expansions post-introduction. However, the physiological mechanisms mediating these outcomes are little known. In some vertebrates, variation in the regulation of inflammation has been implicated, perhaps because inflammation imparts excessive costs, including high resource demands and collateral damage upon encounter with novel parasites. Here, we tested the hypothesis that variation in the regulation of inflammation contributed to the spread of house sparrows (Passer domesticus) across Kenya, one of the world's most recent invasions of this species. Specifically, we asked whether inflammatory gene expression declines with population age (i.e. distance from Mombasa (dfM), the site of introduction around 1950). We compared expression of two microbe surveillance molecules (Toll-like receptors, TLRs-2 and 4) and a proinflammatory cytokine (interleukin-6, IL-6) before and after an injection of an immunogenic component of Gram-negative bacteria (lipopolysaccharide, LPS) among six sparrow populations. We then used a best-subset model selection approach to determine whether population age (dfM) or other factors (e.g. malaria or coccidian infection, sparrow density or genetic group membership) best-explained gene expression. For baseline expression of TLR-2 and TLR-4, population age tended to be the best predictor with expression decreasing with population age, although other factors were also important. Induced expression of TLRs was affected by LPS treatment alone. For induced IL-6, only LPS treatment reliably predicted expression; baseline expression was not explained by any factor. These data suggest that changes in microbe surveillance, more so than downstream control of inflammation via cytokines, might have been important to the house sparrow invasion of Kenya.