Maternal transfer of strain-specific immunity in an invertebrate

Tom J. Little, Benjamin O'Connor, Nick Colegrave, Kathryn Watt, Andrew F. Read

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

282 Scopus citations


The most celebrated component of the vertebrate immune system is the acquired response in which memory cells established during primary infection enhance the proliferation of antibodies during secondary infection. Additionally, the strength of vertebrate acquired immune responses varies dramatically depending on the infecting pathogen species or on the pathogen genotype within species [1, 2]. Because invertebrates lack the T-cell receptors and Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) molecules that mediate vertebrate adaptive immune responses, they are thought to lack adaptive immunity and be relatively unspecific in their interactions with pathogens [3-5]. With only innate immunity, invertebrate hosts are believed to be naïve at each new encounter with pathogens [1, 6]. Nevertheless, some forms of facultative immunity appear to be important in insects; some individuals have enhanced immunity due to population density [7], and some social insects benefit when their nest-mates have been exposed to a pathogen or pathogen mimic ([8, 9]; see [10] for a predation example.) Here we provide evidence for acquired strain-specific immunity in the crustacean Daphnia magna infected with the pathogenic bacteria Pasteuria ramosa. Specifically, the fitness of hosts was enhanced when challenged with a bacterial strain their mother had experienced relative to cases when mother and offspring were challenged with different strains.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)489-492
Number of pages4
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 18 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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