Evolution of adaptive immune systems
Most species in the animal kingdom lack an adaptive immune system and instead rely on innate immune functions for immune defense. By contrast, vertebrates additionally employ an adaptive immune system. Based on a broad-ranging analysis of chordate species, we are examining the structure, function and evolutionary trajectories of genetic networks underlying the emergence of mechanistic and morphological features of adaptive immune systems.
This work encompasses the development of gene inventories for species occupying key phylogenetic positions, such as cephalochordates, lamprey and shark, and the functional probing of gene functions in genetically tractable animals such as teleosts and mouse, with a particular focus on the thymus.