Early-life adversity accelerates cellular ageing and affects adult inflammation: Experimental evidence from the European starling

Daniel Nettle*, Clare Andrews, Sophie Reichert, Tom Bedford, Claire Kolenda, Craig Parker, Carmen Martin-Ruiz, Pat Monaghan, Melissa Bateson

*Corresponding author for this work

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56 Citations (Scopus)


Early-life adversity is associated with accelerated cellular ageing during development and increased inflammation during adulthood. However, human studies can only establish correlation, not causation, and existing experimental animal approaches alter multiple components of early-life adversity simultaneously. We developed a novel hand-rearing paradigm in European starling nestlings (Sturnus vulgaris), in which we separately manipulated nutritional shortfall and begging effort for a period of 10 days. The experimental treatments accelerated erythrocyte telomere attrition and increased DNA damage measured in the juvenile period. For telomere attrition, amount of food and begging effort exerted additive effects. Only the combination of low food amount and high begging effort increased DNA damage. We then measured two markers of inflammation, high-sensitivity C-reactive protein and interleukin-6, when the birds were adults. The experimental treatments affected both inflammatory markers, though the patterns were complex and different for each marker. The effect of the experimental treatments on adult interleukin-6 was partially mediated by increased juvenile DNA damage. Our results show that both nutritional input and begging effort in the nestling period affect cellular ageing and adult inflammation in the starling. However, the pattern of effects is different for different biomarkers measured at different time points.

Original languageEnglish
Article number40794
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jan 2017
Externally publishedYes

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