Javascript is not activated in your browser. This website needs javascript activated to work properly.
You are here

On the adaptive significance of stress-induced immunosuppression

  • Lars Råberg
  • Mats Grahn
  • Dennis Hasselquist
  • Erik Svensson
Publishing year: 1998
Language: English
Pages: 1637-1641
Publication/Series: Royal Society of London. Proceedings B. Biological Sciences
Volume: 265
Issue: 1406
Document type: Journal article review
Publisher: Royal Society

Abstract english

We approach the field of stress immunology from an ecological point of view and ask: why should a heavy physical workload, for example as a result of a high reproductive effort, compromise immune function? We argue that immunosuppression by neuroendocrine mechanisms, such as stress hormones, during heavy physical workload is adaptive, and consider two different ultimate explanations of such immunosuppression. First, several authors have suggested that the immune system is suppressed to reallocate resources to other metabolic demands. In our view, this hypothesis assumes that considerable amounts of energy or nutrients can be saved by suppressing the immune system; however, this assumption requires further investigation. Second, we suggest an alternative explanation based on the idea that the immune system is tightly regulated by neuroendocrine mechanisms to avoid hyperactivation and ensuing autoimmune responses. We hypothesize that the risk of autoimmune responses increases during heavy physical workload and that the immune system is suppressed to counteract this.


  • Biological Sciences
  • immune-system
  • strenuous exercise
  • reproductive effort
  • pituitary-adrenal axis
  • exercise
  • strenuous
  • sexual selection
  • cost of reproduction
  • immunocompetence
  • autoimmunity
  • proteins
  • cost
  • recognition
  • hypotheses
  • endocrine


  • Immunoecology
  • Molecular Ecology and Evolution Lab
  • ISSN: 1471-2954
Dennis Hasselquist
E-mail: dennis [dot] hasselquist [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se



+46 46 222 37 08



Research group


Doctoral students and postdocs

Research fellows


Jacob Roved

PhD Students, main supervisor

PhD Students, assistant supervisor


Interview about my research in the Swedish podcast "Forskarn & jag"