Behaviour 2019
Natural disaster accelerates the pace of immunological aging in a nonhuman primate
Marina Watowich1, Kenneth Chiou2, Michael Montague3, Noah Simons4, Julie Horvath4,5,6,7, Angelina Ruiz-Lambides8, Melween Martinez8, James Higham9, Lauren Brent10, Michael Platt3, Noah Snyder-Mackler2. 1University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, United States; 2Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, United States; 3University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States; 4Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, United States; 5North Carolina Central University, Durham, North Carolina, United States; 6North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Raleigh, North Carolina, United States; 7North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina, United States; 8University of Puerto Rico, San Juan, Puerto Rico, United States; 9New York University, New York, New York, United States; 10University of Exeter, Exeter, , United Kingdom

Individuals can exhibit extensive phenotypic variation in key life history traits including senescence that can be influenced by adverse life experiences such as natural disasters. We measured inter-individual variation in peripheral immune system aging at baseline and in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in a population of free-ranging rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta). We found that the effects of the hurricane were strongly correlated with the effects of aging on the immune system (rho=0.23, p< 0.01). Further, experiencing Hurricane Maria promoted age-associated changes in immune-cell marker genes and proteostasis pathways–both hallmarks of senescence–suggesting that the hurricane may have accelerated physiological aging. Indeed, animals after experiencing the hurricane had a gene expression profile that was on average 1.96 years older than animals prior to experiencing the hurricane (p< 0.01). While our results demonstrate that extreme adversity can accelerate immunological aging, we observed extensive inter-individual variation in the pace of aging, suggesting potential modulation by other factors, such as social status and support.