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J Immunol. 2007 Nov 1;179(9):5927-35.

Cyclosporin A suspends transplantation reactions in the marine sponge Microciona prolifera.

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  • 1Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, MA 02543, USA.

Erratum in

  • J Immunol. 2007 Dec 15;179(12):8570.


Sponges are the simplest extant animals but nevertheless possess self-nonself recognition that rivals the specificity of the vertebrate MHC. We have used dissociated cell assays and grafting techniques to study tissue acceptance and rejection in the marine sponge Microciona prolifera. Our data show that allogeneic, but not isogeneic, cell contacts trigger cell death and an increased expression of cell adhesion and apoptosis markers in cells that accumulate in graft interfaces. Experiments investigating the possible existence of immune memory in sponges indicate that faster second set reactions are nonspecific. Among the different cellular types, gray cells have been proposed to be the sponge immunocytes. Fluorescence confocal microscopy results from intact live grafts show the migration of autofluorescent gray cells toward graft contact zones and the inhibition of gray cell movements in the presence of nontoxic concentrations of cyclosporin A. These results suggest that cell motility is an important factor involved in sponge self/nonself recognition. Communication between gray cells in grafted tissues does not require cell contact and is carried by an extracellular diffusible marker. The finding that a commonly used immunosuppressor in human transplantation such as cyclosporin A blocks tissue rejection in marine sponges indicates that the cellular mechanisms for regulating this process in vertebrates might have appeared at the very start of metazoan evolution.

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