Abstract # 169:

Scheduled for Sunday, August 27, 2017 10:15 AM-10:30 AM: (Grand Ballroom) Oral Presentation


J. Tung
Duke University, Department of Evolutionary Anthropology, Box 90383, Durham, NC 27708, USA
     In social primates, interactions with group mates powerfully shape the environment that individuals face each day. Consequently, some of the most important sources of variance in individual fitness involve aspects of the social environment. Here, I present two examples from our efforts to understand the molecular mechanisms that mediate these effects. First, I discuss evidence from experimental work in captive rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta). Our findings indicate that social status (i.e., dominance rank) in adult females causally alters gene regulation in immune cells, in a manner that is both cell type-specific and highly plastic. Social status also influences the gene expression response to infection: low ranking females mount a stronger pro-inflammatory response than high ranking females, indicative of rank-driven polarization of the Toll-like receptor 4 signaling pathway. Second, I present evidence from an intensively studied wild baboon (Papio cynocephalus) population that gene regulation is also associated with social environmental variation in unmanipulated natural populations. In this context, social status-linked immune gene regulation is more detectable in adult males than in adult females, consistent with previous findings in this population showing stronger physiological consequences of rank for males. Together, our results point to a strong link between social behavior and the genomics of the immune system, with important ramifications for understanding both social gradients in health in humans and the evolution of social hierarchies more broadly.