Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Violent sex acts boost insect's immunity system

05.12.2007
The long-held idea that only vertebrates have sophisticated adaptive immune systems that can protect them for life against many pathogens after being infected by them just once has been revised in recent years.

It turns out that many insects also have a form of immune memory that protects them against reinvasion by a pathogen they have previously encountered. This was just one of the striking discoveries discussed at the recent conference on Innate Immunity and the Environment, organised by the European Science Foundation (ESF).

Ironically the conference was set up to discuss innate immunity involving generic response to pathogens, rather than specific actions based on memory of past infections as in adaptive immunity. Yet the real highlight of the conference was the presentation of new research showing that insects and higher vertebrates, including humans, have much more similar immune systems than was thought, according to the conference chair professor Paul Schmid-Hempel from the Institute of Integrative Biology in Zurich. It is not just insect immune memories, but also how they recognize pathogens, that have close analogues in vertebrates, said Schmid-Hempel.

Insect innate immunity was also discussed in the context of sex, where the issue lies for females in distinguishing between hostile pathogens and male sperm, which is also after all foreign tissue. The point here is that for some insects sex is a violent act causing wounds that become infected and require a swift and powerful immune response, as Schmid-Hempel indicated. "The topic was the traumatic insemination performed by some insect males, such as bedbugs, where the male injects sperm into the female through her body wall and certain sites," said Schmid-Hempel. "It has now been shown these sites are very immuno-active, and that this feature is essential to keep out infections that typically enter via the insemination act. In essence, it is about the general problem that insemination may also transfer disease and, at the same time, sperm is an antigen (non-self) for any female with all its potential immunological complications."

... more about:
»Adaptive »Pathogen »Schmid-Hempel »Sex »immune »innate »vertebrate

The conference was the first of two organised by the ESF on innate immunity's relationship with the environment, with the second staged for 2009. The stage was set for some further research that will be presented at that second conference, including important work on the "hygiene hypothesis", applicable at least to humans, which states that too much cleanliness is actually bad for the developing immune system in children. "There is a growing awareness and consent that early exposure to antigens/pathogens is important for the full capacity of the immune system," said Schmid-Hempel. Although this hypothesis has yet to be finally proven, especially since the underlying molecular mechanisms are imperfectly understood, there is accumulating evidence that excessive hygiene is bad for children.

The conference also tackled the controversial and difficult subject of how and when adaptive immunity evolved from innate immunity in vertebrates (and possibly, as is now starting to be believed, analogues in insects as well). One new suggestion is that vertebrate adaptive immunity first evolved in co-evolution with parasitic flatworms, aided by frequent genome duplication and the need to reduce metabolic costs of immune defences. A similar process might have taken place in insects as they faced particular parasitic groups. But as Schmid-Hempel pointed out, these remain areas of huge disagreement, with here too further discussion likely at the 2009 conference.

Other topics for further research and discussion at the 2009 conference were identified, including the detailed innate immune mechanisms underlying defence against different classes of pathogen, especially viruses and protozoa (the agent of malaria). Much also remains to be discovered about the underlying population genetics of immunity.

The research conference, "The impact of the environment on innate immunity: at the defence frontier - the biology of innate immunity" was held April 22-27 2007 at the Obergurgl University Centre near Innsbruck in Austria. A wide range of topics relating to innate immunity and its subsequent extension into adaptive immunity were presented and discussed.

Thomas Lau | alfa
Further information:
http://www.esf.org/conferences/07223

Further reports about: Adaptive Pathogen Schmid-Hempel Sex immune innate vertebrate

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

DGIST develops 20 times faster biosensor

24.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Nanoimprinted hyperlens array: Paving the way for practical super-resolution imaging

24.04.2017 | Materials Sciences

Atomic-level motion may drive bacteria's ability to evade immune system defenses

24.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>