Sunday, June 1, 2014

Chronic infection and the origin of adaptive immune system

If you are interested in immunological modeling or theories (which is my special interest), this hypothetical article is for you. I think it has some unique ideas.

I would like to point out that more recent studies of jawless vertebrate immune system reveal that they also contain adaptive-like immune system, probably as diverse as of jawed vertebrates (1).

 2010 Aug;75(2):241-3.


It has been speculated that the rise of the adaptive immune system in jawed vertebrates some 400 million years ago gave them a superior protection to detect and defend against pathogens that became more elusive and/or virulent to the host that had only innate immune system. 

First, this line of thought implies that adaptive immune system was a new, more sophisticated layer of host defense that operated independently of the innate immune system. 
Second, the natural consequence of this scenario would be that pathogens would have exercised so strong an evolutionary pressure that eventually no host could have afforded not to have an adaptive immune system. Neither of these arguments is supported by the facts. 

First, new experimental evidence has firmly established that operation of adaptive immune system is critically dependent on the ability of the innate immune system to detect invader-pathogens and second, the absolute majority of animal kingdom survives just fine with only an innate immune system. Thus, these data raise the dilemma: If innate immune system was sufficient to detect and protect against pathogens, why then did adaptive immune system develop in the first place? 

In contrast to the innate immune system, the adaptive immune system has one important advantage, precision. By precision I mean the ability of the defense system to detect and remove the target, for example, infected cells, without causing unwanted bystander damage of surrounding tissue. 

While the target precision per se is not important for short-term immune response, it becomes a critical factor when the immune response is long-lasting, as during chronic infection. In this paper I would like to propose new, "toxic index" hypothesis where I argue that the need to reduce the collateral damage to the tissue during chronic infection(s) was the evolutionary pressure that led to the development of the adaptive immune system.

for whole article please see


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