Challenging Immune Diversity Dogma

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Science  23 Dec 2005:
Vol. 310, Issue 5756, pp. 1865j
DOI: 10.1126/science.310.5756.1865j

The adaptive immune system has been thought to be confined to the realm of jawed vertebrates, where somatic mechanisms of genetic variation have evolved to generate immune receptors in great diversity that are clonally dispersed among its lymphocytes. However, recently jawless fish have been shown to be able to generate diversity among immune-like receptors, and indeed some invertebrates produce diverse immunoglobulin-like molecules. Extending their original discovery of variable lymphocyte receptors (VLRs) in the sea lamprey, Alder et al. (p. 1970) now provide information on the form, function, and potential extent of somatic genetic diversity in this system. Leucine-rich repeats (LRRs) are randomly selected from a large bank of LRR modules by a sequential mechanism of rearrangement so that an estimated diversity of VLRs rivaling that of immune receptors in mammals is possible. Furthermore serial immunization of lampreys was found to elicit the responses expected in a developing adaptive immune response to an antigen.

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