Joined: May 2002
A few key papers on the origin of the innate immune system:
Immunopharmacology 1999 May;42(1-3):107-20
Complement systems in invertebrates. The ancient alternative and lectin pathways.
Smith LC, Azumi K, Nonaka M.
Department of Biological Sciences and Institute of Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program in Genetics, George Washington University, Washington, DC 20052, USA.
The complement system in higher vertebrates is composed of about thirty proteins that function in three activation cascades and converge in a single terminal pathway. It is believed that these cascades, as they function in the higher vertebrates, evolved from a few ancestral genes through a combination of gene duplications and divergences plus pathway duplication (perhaps as a result of genome duplication). Evidence of this evolutionary history is based on sequence analysis of complement components from animals in the vertebrate lineage. There are fewer components and reduced or absent pathways in lower vertebrates compared to mammals. Modern examples of the putatively ancestral complement system have been identified in sea urchins and tunicates, members of the echinoderm phylum and the protochordate subphylum, which are sister groups to the vertebrates. Thus far, this simpler system is composed of homologues of C3, factor B, and mannose binding protein associated serine protease suggesting the presence of simpler alternative and lectin pathways. Additional components are predicted to be present. A complete analysis of this invertebrate defense system, which evolved before the invention of rearranging genes, will provide keys to the primitive beginnings of innate immunity in the deuterostome lineage of animals.
Immunobiology 2002 Sep;205(4-5):340-54
Which came first, the lectin/classical pathway or the alternative pathway of complement?
Department of Biochemistry, University of Oxford, UK. firstname.lastname@example.org
It is a widely accepted canon of immunology that the alternative pathway is more primitive and hence older in evolutionary terms than the lectin/classical pathway. This idea has been reinforced by the discovery of "C3" and "factor B" proteins in invertebrate species. However, it is clear that the gene duplications which gave rise to C3/C4/C5 and factor B/C2 occurred in the vertebrate lineage. Hence, the naming of the invertebrate proteins may be based on preconceptions rather than on solid structural or functional evidence. Lectins and associated MASP/C1r/C1s-like proteins have been found in invertebrates, while factor D, the defining component of an alternative pathway, has so far been found only in the bony fish and higher species. It is a principle of Darwinian evolution that complex systems develop through small sequential steps. It is possible to imagine such a series of steps for the evolution of a lectin pathway, involving as it does recognition of non-self. It is difficult to see how the alternative pathway, which lacks a recognition molecule, could have evolved without the prior development of control proteins to protect self from attack.