[S4] Evolution of immune diversity

At the frontier of natural selection, the immune system protects us from the constant challenge of multiple and rapidly evolving pathogens. This evolutionary pressure has driven the genes of the immune system to be the most polymorphic of the vertebrate genome, having multiple variants affecting protein specificity, function or expression. Countering beneficial disease resistance, some of these genetic variations also have costs to the host, including adverse effects on reproductive health and predisposition to autoimmune disease. This symposium will focus on the genes that generate immune diversity in humans and other great apes. As one example, the major compatibility complex (MHC: in humans, human leukocyte antigen - HLA) epitomizes extreme genetic and functional diversity, rapid evolution and the most consistent and strongest evidence for the impact of natural selection in the genome.  MHC molecules drive adaptive immunity, whilst other molecules such as Toll-like receptors drive innate immunity providing resistance to more specific pathogen invasion. In the current dynamic age of molecular analyses, significant technology advances have enabled unprecedented access to wild ape populations, and high-resolution studies of ancient humans, modern human populations and disease cohorts. These studies are substantially aiding understanding immune variation and its role in human disease.
Organizers: Paul Norman, Emily Wroblewski
Invited speakers: Tobias Lenz, Stephen Leslie