• Loggie, John W
  • Garner, Shawn R.
  • Partridge, Charlyn G.
  • Dixon, Bryan
  • Knapp, Rosemary
  • Neff, Bryan D.


The immunosuppressive effects of androgens are a key component of the immunocompetence handicap hypothesis (ICHH). Here, we use bluegill sunfish (Lepomis macrochirus) to test two predictions arising from this hypothesis: (1) natural circulating concentrations of the androgen 11-ketotestosterone (11-KT) will be negatively related with measures of immunity, and (2) immune stimulation will lower circulating 11-KT concentration. We found no evidence for a relationship between natural circulating 11-KT concentration and measures of immunity (lymphocyte and granulocyte counts, respiratory burst, cytokine mRNA levels), and an immune stimulation with Vibrio vaccine did not affect circulating 11-KT concentration. We also performed a meta-analysis of immune stimulation studies to help interpret our results, and report evidence suggesting that immune stimulation has weaker effects on androgen levels in fishes compared to other vertebrates. These results suggest that the ICHH may not apply to all vertebrates, although it remains premature to state what factors account for the weaker evidence in fishes that androgens are immunosuppressive