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Immunol Rev 2001 Apr 01;180:16-34. doi: 10.1034/j.1600-065x.2001.1800102.x.
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The ancestral complement system in sea urchins.

Smith LC , Clow LA , Terwilliger DP .

The origin of adaptive immunity in the vertebrates can be traced to the appearance of the ancestral RAG genes in the ancestral jawed vertebrate; however, the innate immune system is more ancient. A central subsystem within innate immunity is the complement system, which has been identified throughout and seems to be restricted to the deuterostomes. The evolutionary history of complement can be traced from the sea urchins (members of the echinoderm phylum), which have a simplified system homologous to the alternative pathway, through the agnathans (hagfish and lamprey) and the elasmobranchs (sharks and rays) to the teleosts (bony fish) and tetrapods, with increases in the numbers of complement components and duplications in complement pathways. Increasing complexity in the complement system parallels increasing complexity in the deuterostome animals. This review focuses on the simplest of the complement systems that is present in the sea urchin. Two components have been identified that show significant homology to vertebrate C3 and factor B (Bf), called SpC3 and SpBf, respectively. Sequence analysis from both molecules reveals their ancestral characteristics. Immune challenge of sea urchins indicates that SpC3 is inducible and is present in coelomic fluid (the body fluids) in relatively high concentrations, while SpBf expression is constitutive and is present in much lower concentrations. Opsonization of foreign cells and particles followed by augmented uptake by phagocytic coelomocytes appears to be a central function for this simpler complement system and important for host defense in the sea urchin. These activities are similar to some of the functions of the homologous proteins in the vertebrate complement system. The selective advantage for the ancestral deuterostome may have been the amplification feedback loop that is still of central importance in the alternative pathway of complement in higher vertebrates. Feedback loop functions would quickly coat pathogens with complement leading to phagocytosis and removal of foreign cells, a system that would be significantly more effective than an opsonin that binds upon contact as a result of simple diffusion. An understanding of the immune response of the sea urchin, an animal that is a good estimator of what the ancestral deuterostome immune system was like, will aid us in understanding how adaptive immunity might have been selected for during the early evolution of the vertebrates and how it might have been integrated into the pre-existing innate immune system that was already in place in those animals.

PubMed ID: 11414357
Article link: Immunol Rev

Genes referenced: cr1l LOC100887844