Effects of a bacterial infection on mitochondrial function and oxidative stress in a songbird


As a major physiological mechanism involved in cellular renewal and repair, immune function is vital to the body’s capacity to support tissue maintenance and organismal survival. Because immune defenses can be energetically expensive, the activities of metabolically active organs, such as the liver, are predicted to increase during infection by most pathogens. However, some pathogens are immunosuppressive, which might reduce the metabolic capacities of select organs to suppress immune response. Mycoplasma gallisepticum (MG) is a well-known immunosuppressive bacterium that infects domestic chickens and turkeys as well as songbirds. In the house finch (Haemorhous mexicanus), which is the primary host for MG among songbird species, MG infects both the respiratory system and the conjunctiva of the eye, causing conspicuous swelling. To study the effect of a systemic bacterial infection on cellular respiration and oxidative damage in the house finch, we measured mitochondrial respiration, mitochondrial membrane potential, reactive oxygen species production, and oxidative damage in the livers of house finches that were wild caught and either infected with MG, as indicated by genetic screening for the pathogen, or free of MG infection. We observed that MG-infected house finches showed significantly lower oxidative lipid and protein damage in liver tissue compared with their uninfected counterparts. Moreover, using complex II substrates, we documented a nonsignificant trend for lower state 3 respiration of liver mitochondria in MG-infected house finches compared with uninfected house finches (P p 0:07). These results are consistent with the hypothesis that MG suppresses organ function in susceptible hosts.

Publication Title

Physiological and Biochemical Zoology