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Med Hypotheses. 1988 Oct;27(2):115-26.

RISH. VI: General evolutionary aspects of the immune system.

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University of Queensland, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Royal Brisbane Hospital, Herston.


Both the prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells are considered to have arisen from a common progenitor cell. The plasma membrane of the prokaryotic cell became specialized to carry out functions that the eukaryotic cell delegated to cellular organelles. Thus the plasma membrane of the eukaryotic cell remained flexible to evolutionary influences. Thus, provided the structural integrity of the plasma membrane was maintained, alterations within this infrastructure could be tolerated. This gave rise to basic speciation at the cellular level. Such differences in the plasma membrane of these primitive eukaryotic cells were of no importance until the dawn of sexual reproduction, then only like-cells could associate to exchange genetic information. Thus in the protozoa cell-surface, antigens are demonstrable in mating, whereas alloincompatability is intracellular. With the evolution of the Metazoa, in order for like-cells to identify each other, alloincompatability changed from intracellular expression to become expressed on the plasma membrane. Like-cell identification was derived and evolved from the basic feeding mechanism of primitive eukaryotic cells, which involved the induction of lectins that were expressed at the cell-surface. These lectins were induced by the RNA that was complementary to, and complexed with cell surface components of the organisms upon which the eukaryotic cells fed. This RNA was also inserted along with the lectin in the eukaryotic cell plasma membrane, and acted as a template for DNA synthesis. This DNA was then incorporated into the genome of the eukaryotic cell and it became an inheritable characteristic. Thus these lectins could be expressed intracellularly as well as on the plasma membrane. The intracellular expression of these inheritable lectins may have constituted intracellular-alloincompatibility, as well as being used for feeding by agglutination of the organism on the plasma membrane of the eukaryotic cell. With the development of colony formation and the true metazoa, the cell-surface lectins became incorporated into cell-surface components for the identification of like-cells. This represents, in part, the histocompatability antigens of the organisms. At the same time, the lectins were also being increasingly used for the regulation of differentiation, and for what we would classify as immunological reactions.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS).

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