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

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Daniel Nettle, Dr Clare Andrews, Thomas Bedford, Claire Kolenda, Dr Craig Parker, Dr Carmen Martin-RuizORCiD, Professor Melissa BatesonORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


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.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Nettle D, Andrews C, Reichert S, Bedford T, Kolenda C, Parker C, Martin-Ruiz C, Monaghan P, Bateson M

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Scientific Reports

Year: 2017

Volume: 7

Online publication date: 17/01/2017

Acceptance date: 09/12/2016

Date deposited: 16/03/2017

ISSN (electronic): 2045-2322

Publisher: Nature Publishing Group


DOI: 10.1038/srep40794


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Funder referenceFunder name
AdG 268926ERC
AdG 666669ERC
BB/J016446/1Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)