The molecules that mediate innate immunity are encoded by relatively few genes and exhibit broad specificity. Detailed annotation of the Pacific oyster (Crassostrea gigas) genome, a protostome invertebrate, reveals large-scale duplication and divergence of multigene families encoding molecules that effect innate immunity. Transcriptome analyses indicate dynamic and orchestrated specific expression of numerous innate immune genes in response to experimental challenge with pathogens, including bacteria, and a pathogenic virus. Variable expression of individual members of the multigene families encoding these genes also occurs during different types of abiotic stress (environmentally-equivalent conditions of temperature, salinity and desiccation). Multiple families of immune genes are responsive in concert to certain biotic and abiotic challenges. Individual members of expanded families of immune genes are differentially expressed under both biotic challenge and abiotic stress conditions. Members of the same families of innate immune molecules also are transcribed in developmental stage- and tissue-specific manners. An integrated, highly complex innate immune system that exhibits remarkable discriminatory properties and responses to different pathogens as well as environmental stress has arisen through the adaptive recruitment of tandem duplicated genes. The co-adaptive evolution of stress and innate immune responses appears to have an ancient origin in phylogeny.
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