Behavioural fever is a synergic signal amplifying the innate immune response

Sebastian Boltaña, Sonia Rey, Nerea Roher, Reynaldo Vargas, Mario Huerta, Felicity Anne Huntingford, Frederick William Goetz, Janice Moore, Pablo Garcia-Valtanen, Amparo Estepa, Simon MacKenzie

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69 Citations (Scopus)


Behavioural fever, defined as an acute change in thermal preference driven by pathogen recognition, has been reported in a variety of invertebrates and ectothermic vertebrates. It has been suggested, but so far not confirmed, that such changes in thermal regime favour the immune response and thus promote survival. Here, we show that zebrafish display behavioural fever that acts to promote extensive and highly specific temperature-dependent changes in the brain transcriptome. The observed coupling of the immune response to fever acts at the gene-environment level to promote a robust, highly specific time-dependent anti-viral response that, under viral infection, increases survival. Fish that are not offered a choice of temperatures and that therefore cannot express behavioural fever show decreased survival under viral challenge. This phenomenon provides an underlying explanation for the varied functional responses observed during systemic fever. Given the effects of behavioural fever on survival and the fact that it exists across considerable phylogenetic space, such immunity-environment interactions are likely to be under strong positive selection. © 2013 The Authors.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20131381
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Publication statusPublished - 7 Aug 2013


  • Anti-viral response
  • Behavioural fever
  • Gene-environment interaction


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