Candidate innate immune system gene expression in the ecological model Daphnia

Ellen Decaestecker, Pierrick Labbé, Kirsten Ellegaard, Judith E Allen, Tom J Little

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

The last ten years have witnessed increasing interest in host-pathogen interactions involving invertebrate hosts. The invertebrate innate immune system is now relatively well characterised, but in a limited range of genetic model organisms and under a limited number of conditions. Immune systems have been little studied under real-world scenarios of environmental variation and parasitism. Thus, we have investigated expression of candidate innate immune system genes in the water flea Daphnia, a model organism for ecological genetics, and whose capacity for clonal reproduction facilitates an exceptionally rigorous control of exposure dose or the study of responses at many time points. A unique characteristic of the particular Daphnia clones and pathogen strain combinations used presently is that they have been shown to be involved in specific host-pathogen coevolutionary interactions in the wild. We choose five genes, which are strong candidates to be involved in Daphnia-pathogen interactions, given that they have been shown to code for immune effectors in related organisms. Differential expression of these genes was quantified by qRT-PCR following exposure to the bacterial pathogen Pasteuria ramosa. Constitutive expression levels differed between host genotypes, and some genes appeared to show correlated expression. However, none of the genes appeared to show a major modification of expression level in response to Pasteuria exposure. By applying knowledge from related genetic model organisms (e.g. Drosophila) to models for the study of evolutionary ecology and coevolution (i.e. Daphnia), the candidate gene approach is temptingly efficient. However, our results show that detection of only weak patterns is likely if one chooses target genes for study based on previously identified genome sequences by comparison to homologues from other related organisms. Future work on the Daphnia-Pasteuria system will need to balance a candidate gene approach with more comprehensive approaches to de novo identify immune system genes specific to the Daphnia-Pasteuria interaction.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1068-77
Number of pages10
JournalDevelopmental and Comparative Immunology
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2011

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Host–pathogen coevolution
  • qRT-PCR
  • Pasteuria
  • Parasitism
  • Resistance
  • Innate immune system


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