The comparative immunology of wild and laboratory mice, Mus musculus domesticus

Stephen Abolins, Elizabeth King, Luke A J Lazarou, Laura M Weldon, Louise A Hughes, Paul Drescher, John Raynes, Julius Hafalla, Mark Viney, Eleanor M. Riley

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

92 Citations (Scopus)
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The laboratory mouse is the workhorse of immunology, used as a model of mammalian immune function, but how well immune responses of laboratory mice reflect those of free living animals is unknown. Here we comprehensively characterize serological, cellular and functional immune parameters of wild mice and compare them with laboratory mice, finding that wild mouse cellular immune systems are in comparatively highly activated (primed) state. Associations between immune parameters and infection suggest that high level pathogen exposure drives this activation. Moreover, wild mice have a population of highly activated myeloid cells not present in laboratory mice. By contrast, in vitro cytokine responses to pathogen-associated ligands are generally comparatively lower in wild mice, likely reflecting the overriding importance of maintaining immune homeostasis in the face of intense antigenic challenge in the wild. These data provide a comprehensive basis for validating (or not) laboratory mice as a useful and relevant immunological model system.
Original languageEnglish
Article number14811
Number of pages13
JournalNature Communications
Publication statusPublished - 3 May 2017


  • Immune phenotype
  • immune function
  • adaptive
  • innate
  • homeostasis
  • wild
  • free-living

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