Evaluation of immune functions in captive immature loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta)

Estelle Rousselet, Milton Levin, Erika Gebhard, Benjamin Higgins, Sylvain DeGuise, Celine Godard

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22 Scopus citations


Sea turtles face numerous environmental challenges, such as exposure to chemical pollution and biotoxins, which may contribute to immune system impairment, resulting in increased disease susceptibility. Therefore, a more thorough assessment of the host's immune response and its susceptibility is needed for these threatened and endangered animals. In this study, the innate and acquired immune functions of sixty-five clinically healthy, immature, captive loggerhead sea turtles (. Caretta caretta) were assayed using non-lethal blood sample collection. Functional immune assays were developed and/or optimized for this species, including mitogen-induced lymphocyte proliferation, natural killer (NK) cell activity, phagocytosis, and respiratory burst. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) and phagocytes were isolated by density gradient centrifugation on Ficoll-Paque and discontinuous Percoll gradients, respectively. The T lymphocyte mitogens ConA significantly induced lymphocyte proliferation at 1 and 2. μg/mL while PHA significantly induced lymphocyte proliferation at 5 and 10. μg/mL. The B lymphocyte mitogen LPS significantly induced proliferation at 1. μg/mL. Monocytes demonstrated higher phagocytic activity than eosinophils. In addition, monocytes exhibited respiratory burst. Natural killer cell activity was higher against YAC-1 than K-562 target cells. These optimized assays may help to evaluate the integrity of loggerhead sea turtle's immune system upon exposure to environmental contaminants, as well as part of a comprehensive health assessment and monitoring program.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-53
Number of pages11
JournalVeterinary Immunology and Immunopathology
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Nov 2013


  • Caretta caretta
  • Lymphocyte proliferation
  • Mitogen
  • Natural killer
  • Phagocytosis
  • Respiratory burst
  • Sea turtle


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