Plasma antibacterial activities in ornate (Terrapene ornata) and eastern box turtles (Terrapene carolina)

Laura Adamovicz, Sarah J. Baker, Mark Merchant, Matthew C. Allender

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Chelonians are one of the most imperiled vertebrate taxa and many species are increasingly threatened by disease, however, the immune response in this group is understudied. We quantified the innate immune response of eastern (Terrapene carolina; EBT) and ornate (Terrapene ornate; OBT) box turtles using plasma antibacterial activity assays. Plasma from both species abolished or significantly reduced the growth of all eight bacterial species evaluated, including Salmonella typhimurium, Escherichia coli, Enterobacter cloacae, Citrobacter freundi, Bacillus subtilis, Staphylococcus epidermidis, and Staphylococcus aureus. Bactericidal capacity was greater in OBT compared to EBT, and OBT plasma retained high antibacterial activities at a broader temperature range (20–40°C) compared to EBT (30–40°C). Plasma antibacterial activity was abolished following treatment with heat, protease, and ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid, indicating that complement is likely responsible for the observed effects. Further characterization of the box turtle immune response may provide insight into the importance of infectious diseases for species conservation, enabling the development of more efficient and effective population management strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)295-305
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Experimental Zoology Part A: Ecological and Integrative Physiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020


  • Terrapene
  • box turtle
  • chelonian
  • innate immunity
  • reptile

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics

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