For host survival, the immune system (IS) is required to deliver high-level, specific and continuous performance, dealing with a very complex universe of stimuli and functions, as well as physical and resource constraints. From this perspective, the immune system needs an effective strategy to assure the requested operational functions, to survive and to evolve. The concept of degeneracy discussed in this chapter, is the ability of some immune receptors to bind many types of ligands and it would appear to be a fundamental characteristic for immune system functioning as well as a formidable weapon in the architecture of complex biological structures and systems. In this chapter, we will discuss how degeneracy acts as a strategy to optimize the necessary trade-off between the inescapable promiscuity of receptors and ligands, with the necessity to produce a specific response, and how the degeneracy principle acts to set up a memory of each immunological event, thus contributing to the fitness of the organism, and how degeneracy can be considered among the underlying causes for the evolution and robustness of the IS.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Microbiology(all)