While going through Koonin’s recent paper, we came across two other relevant ones that the readers may enjoy.
All multicellular organisms protect themselves against pathogens using sophisticated immune defenses. Functionally interconnected humoral and cellular facilities maintain immune homeostasis in the absence of overt infection and regulate the initiation and termination of immune responses directed against pathogens. Immune responses of invertebrates, such as flies, are innate and usually stereotyped; those of vertebrates, encompassing species as diverse as jawless fish and humans, are additionally adaptive, enabling more rapid and efficient immune reactivity upon repeated encounters with a pathogen. Many of the attributes historically defining innate and adaptive immunity are in fact common to both, blurring their functional distinction and emphasizing shared ancestry and co-evolution. These findings provide indications of the evolutionary forces underlying the origin of somatic diversification of antigen receptors and contribute to our understanding of the complex phenotypes of human immune disorders. Moreover, informed by phylogenetic considerations and inspired by improved knowledge of functional networks, new avenues emerge for innovative therapeutic strategies.
Recent findings have provided evidence for the existence of non-vertebrate acquired immunity. We survey these findings and propose that all living organisms must express both innate and acquired immunity. This is opposed to the paradigm that only vertebrates manifest the two forms of immune mechanism; other species are thought to use innate immunity alone. We suggest new definitions of innate and acquired immunity, based on whether immune recognition molecules are encoded in the inherited genome or are generated through somatic processes. We reason that both forms of immunity are similarly ancient, and have co-evolved in response to lifestyle, cost-benefit tradeoffs and symbiosis versus parasitism. However, different species have evolved different immune solutions that are not necessarily genetically related, but serve a similar general function, allowing individuals to learn from their own immune experience; survival of species is contingent on the acquired immune experience of its individuals.