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After the closure of the Basel Institute for Immunology in 2000, I was offered an early retirement, but I was offered at the same time an office by the Institute of Zoology at the University of Basel. From then I focused on bioinformatic studies of the gene families involved in innate and adaptive immunity. This allowed me to catch back with a long lasting interest for the evolution of the immune system in general. My focus is on the history of the immunoglobulin superfamily throughout the evolution of Metazoan and the conservation of linkage groups that may contain relatives of the various elements of the immune system of vertebrates' antigen specific receptor. A new set of paralogues was identified in the human genome thanks to this approach and to the study of the CTX ancestors in the Ciona (Urochordates, Tunicates) genome. My specific interest is now the diversity and the diversification of the modes of recognition chosen by Metazoa to develop their immune system. My working hypothesis is that there exists in all phyla a balance between innate immunity and some forms of acquired immunity. This is based on the fact that in the literatures one reads more and more reports of individual responses in different invertebrate organisms.
From the immunity view point Arthropods have been studied almost exclusively in some lepidopters, dipters and crustaceans because of physiological and genetic advantages of the models or because of their economic importance for aquaculture. Recently data in horshoe crab have shown that big differences could be found among crustaceans concerning immunity and not much has been done yet on polymorphism or on individualization of immune responses in the Arthropods. New models are welcome.
Daphnia appears to be another interesting organism due to the background knowledge in host-parasite interaction and to the genetic possibilities offered by this model (See Prof. Ebert entry on this site). In a first step I am trying to detect among the available Daphnia ESTs the homologues of genes encoding molecules that putatively could be involved in immune recognition.