Send to

Choose Destination
APMIS. 1992 May;100(5):383-92.

Origin and evolution of the vertebrate immune system.

Author information

Basel Institute for Immunology, Switzerland.


The immune system is a complex evolutionary unit and it would be simplistic to conclude that the immune systems of all primitive vertebrates are primitive. Because of the large number of elements involved, many evolutionary events must have taken place, some of them neutral, some of them selected, to constitute the systems that we are looking at towards the end of the 20th century. All these systems have perhaps evolved beyond the apparent evolutionary state of the species in which they are found. They have been modulated by factors linked not only to the internal evolution of their elementary genes, but also by coevolution with factors in the internal environment, such as cellular constraints, metabolism, mode of reproduction and progeny size. It seems that good inventions are long lasting, which is the reason why some elements of the invertebrate immune system can be found with similar functions in vertebrates (defensins). It is also the reason why Ig domains have been exploited in so many ways, whether for the immune system or not. Again, they had an evolution of their own. The comparative study of the immune systems carried out on the occasion of this phylogenetic survey shows a world particularly dynamic and diverse. The comparisons between the solutions chosen by the various phyla of the animal kingdom, or closer to us by the various classes of vertebrates, allow us to distinguish the essential features of the immune system. From this viewpoint, this approach is not only of phylogenetic interest, but also has an applied aspect. Increasing our knowledge in this area could help suggest solutions to clinicians when they are faced with deficiencies and abnormalities in the immune system of man.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Wiley
Loading ...
Support Center