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Crit Rev Immunol. 2011;31(1):61-71.

Origins of adaptive immunity.

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School of Medicine & Strategic Research Centre in Molecular and Medical Research, Deakin University, Waurn Ponds, Victoria, Australia.


Adaptive immunity, involving distinctive antibody- and cell-mediated responses to specific antigens based on "memory" of previous exposure, is a hallmark of higher vertebrates. It has been argued that adaptive immunity arose rapidly, as articulated in the "big bang theory" surrounding its origins, which stresses the importance of coincident whole-genome duplications. Through a close examination of the key molecules and molecular processes underpinning adaptive immunity, this review suggests a less-extreme model, in which adaptive immunity emerged as part of longer evolutionary journey. Clearly, whole-genome duplications provided additional raw genetic materials that were vital to the emergence of adaptive immunity, but a variety of other genetic events were also required to generate some of the key molecules, whereas others were preexisting and simply co-opted into adaptive immunity.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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