The evolutionary perspective indicates that an immune-neuroendocrine effector system integrating innate immunity, stress and inflammation is present in invertebrates. This defense network, centered on the macrophage and exerting primitive and highly promiscuous recognition units, is very effective, ancestral and appears to have been conserved throughout evolution from invertebrates to higher vertebrates. It would seem that there was a "big bang" in the recognition system of lower vertebrates, and T and B cell repertoires, MHC and antibodies suddenly appeared. We argue that this phenomenon is the counterpart of the increasing complexity of the internal circuitry and recognition units in the effector system. The immediate consequences were a progressive enlargement of the pathogen repertoire and new problems regarding self/not-self discrimination. Probably not by chance, a new organ appeared, capable of purging cells able of excessive self recognition. This organ, the thymus, appears to be the result of a well known evolutionary strategy of re-using pre-existing material (neuroendocrine cells and mediators constituting the thymic microenvironment). This bricolage at an organ level is similar to the effect we have already described at the level of molecules and functions of the defense network, and has a general counterpart at genetic level. Thus, in vertebrates, the conserved immune-neuroendocrine effector system remains of fundamental importance in defense against pathogens, while its efficiency has increased through synergy with the new, clonotipical recognition repertoire.
|Journal||Frontiers in Bioscience|
|Publication status||Published - 1998|