Flight training and dietary antioxidants have mixed effects on the oxidative status of multiple tissues in a female migratory songbird

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Birds, like other vertebrates, rely on a robust antioxidant system to protect themselves against oxidative imbalance caused by energy-intensive activities such as flying. Such oxidative challenges may be especially acute for females during spring migration, as they must pay the oxidative costs of flight while preparing for reproduction; however, little previous work has examined how the antioxidant system of female spring migrants responds to dietary antioxidants and the oxidative challenges of regular flying. We fed two diets to female European starlings, one supplemented with a dietary antioxidant and one without, and then flew them daily in a windtunnel for 2 weeks during the autumn and spring migration periods. We measured the activity of enzymatic antioxidants (glutathione peroxidase, superoxide dismutase and catalase), non-enzymatic antioxidant capacity (ORAC) and markers of oxidative damage (protein carbonyls and lipid hydroperoxides) in four tissues: pectoralis, leg muscle, liver and heart. Dietary antioxidants affected enzymatic antioxidant activity and lipid damage in the heart, non-enzymatic antioxidant capacity in the pectoralis, and protein damage in leg muscle. In general, birds not fed the antioxidant supplement appeared to incur increased oxidative damage while upregulating non-enzymatic and enzymatic antioxidant activity, though these effects were strongly tissue specific. We also found trends for diet×training interactions for enzymatic antioxidant activity in the heart and leg muscle. Flight training may condition the antioxidant system of females to dynamically respond to oxidative challenges, and females during spring migration may shift antioxidant allocation to reduce oxidative damage.

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Journal of Experimental Biology