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Today we dove headfirst into the “primitive” world of invertebrate immunity and host response. Molluscan & crustacean models were the focus. While primitive, marine invertebrate immune systems have evolved/persisted for millions of years, and they seem to have been quite effective so far. However, most marine invertebrates have not been studied to the extent that their terrestrial counterparts have. Unlike vertebrates, marine invertebrates have been thought to only have an innate immune response and no long-term immune “memory” (i.e. adaptive immune response). These large differences and lack of knowledge make studying invertebrate immune systems challenging.

Innate vs. Adaptive Immunity - Various innate responses and the physical location of where those responses take place in the host.

Innate vs. Adaptive Immunity – Various innate responses and the physical location of where those responses take place in the host.

However, evidence is pointing to potential adaptive immune response(s) in invertebrate hosts. It is clear that immune response is still in many ways a large black box, but a recent review by Joseph Sun and colleagues (2014) point to the evidence and missing links in this enigma.

Vertebrates vs. Invertebrates and the black hole of knowledge regarding invertebrate immune responses. http://emboj.embopress.org/content/early/2014/03/27/embj.201387651

Vertebrates vs. Invertebrates and the black hole of knowledge regarding invertebrate immune responses. http://emboj.embopress.org/content/early/2014/03/27/embj.201387651

Additionally, there are some recent advances that have helped us understand the invertebrate-host response, as well as connect it to environmental variation and stressors. qPCR and gene expression profiles are allowing us to target genes and get a more systemic understanding of the host response. Carolyn and Steven showed us multiple examples from their labs as well as other colleagues, where these studies have shed light on poorly understood invertebrate immune responses and signaling cascades. We’ll be continuing to examine these topics further and I’m thoroughly interested in this topic, so expect more posts on these and similar topics in the upcoming weeks!

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