Because jawless vertebrates are the most primitive vertebrates, they have been studied to gain understanding of the evolutionary processes that gave rise to the innate and adaptive immune systems in vertebrates. Jawless vertebrates have developed lymphocyte-like cells that morphologically resemble the T and B cells of jawed vertebrates, but they express variable lymphocyte receptors (VLRs) instead of the T and B cell receptors that specifically recognize antigens in jawed vertebrates. These VLRs act as antigen receptors, diversity being generated in their antigen-binding sites by assembly of highly diverse leucine-rich repeat modules. Therefore, jawless vertebrates have developed adaptive immune systems based on the VLRs. Although pattern recognition receptors, including Toll-like receptors (TLRs) and Rig-like receptors (RLRs), and their adaptor genes are conserved in jawless vertebrates, some transcription factor and inflammatory cytokine genes in the TLR and RLR pathways are not present. However, like jawed vertebrates, the initiation of adaptive immune responses in jawless vertebrates appears to require prior activation of the innate immune system. These observations imply that the innate immune systems of jawless vertebrates have a unique molecular basis that is distinct from that of jawed vertebrates. Altogether, although the molecular details of the innate and adaptive immune systems differ between jawless and jawed vertebrates, jawless vertebrates have developed versions of these immune systems that are similar to those of jawed vertebrates.
- Jawless vertebrates
- Pattern recognition receptors
- Variable lymphocyte receptors
ASJC Scopus subject areas