Development of lymphocyte system in lampreys

Advisor: Thomas Boehm / Ruth Ley

Location: Max Planck Institute for Biology

About 500 million years ago, the first vertebrates emerged, featuring a radically restructured immune system. Novel adaptive immune facilities became integrated with sophisticated but largely stereotyped ancient innate immune functions. Surprisingly, adaptive immunity appears to evolved independently at least twice in the early phases of vertebrate evolution: Jawed vertebrates comprising more than 60,000 species ranging from cartilaginous fishes to humans rely on the Rag-mediated assembly of immunoglobulin domain-based of antibodies and T cell receptors; by contrast, the ~ 200 species of jawless vertebrates (lampreys and hagfishes) rely on the cytidine deaminase-mediated assembly of leucine rich domain-encoding genomic cassettes to form functional variable lymphocyte receptors (VLRs). Recently, our laboratory has reported the first (and so far only) successful targeted disruption of an immune-relevant gene in lampreys. Having overcome this major obstacle, we have been able to transform lampreys into a genetically tractable model species for immunological research. You will take advantage of this critical technological advance to examine (some of) the many important aspects of the development and reactivity of the lamprey immune system that so far remain unknown.

More information about the research of Thomas Boehm and a selection of recent publications can be found on his faculty page.

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