Changes in mucosal and serum immunoglobulin levels of California sea lions during early development

W. Espinosa-de Aquino, M. Bailey, K. Acevedo-Whitehouse*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


To date, most studies on pinniped immunoglobulins have focused on circulating antibodies. However, systemic and local immune activities differ in terms of maturation, intensity, and types of effectors that participate. Here, we examined levels of three immunoglobulin isotypes, IgG, IgM and IgA, in the blood and mucosal membranes of free-living California sea lion pups. We investigated whether age, body condition and sex influenced their concentration. Isotype levels varied among tissues, with age-related patterns that could be indicative of differential regulation along development. Serum IgG and IgA increased linearly with age, reaching adult levels at five months of age, while IgM remained unchanged. Mucosal isotypes tended to be low in newborns and remained so until five months of age. Regardless of age, pups with better condition tended to have higher anal IgG levels and higher genital IgA levels, suggesting that their synthesis and transport to the mucosal membranes is costly. Intersex differences were only observed in the genital mucosa, where all isotypes differed between male and female pups, regardless of age, presumably due to histological and anatomical differences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)166-173
Number of pages8
JournalDevelopmental and Comparative Immunology
Publication statusPublished - 12 Aug 2017


  • California sea lion
  • Immunoglobulins
  • Isotypes
  • Mucosal immunity
  • Secretory antibodies
  • Zalophus californianus


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