Living in an adaptive world: Genomic dissection of the genus Homo and its immune response
A Review Article by Hélène Quach and Lluis Quintana-Murci
in The Journal of Experimental Medicine 214:877-894 (2017)
Doi.org/10.1084/jem.20161942 (open access)
Commentary by Jon Laman
Two authors from Paris, France, provide a wonderfully concise and sophisticated overview on how evolution shaped our current immune response. Their review is a scientific and educational treasure trove, written in accessible form, and with 6 very instructive figures, box and table. For those from other fields, it is useful to point out that the Journal of Experimental Medicine is highly read and respected in the fields of hematology, immunology, and regenerative medicine. Hence, this article has high visibility bringing these evolutionary aspects to a large audience.
While discussing classic and recent exciting primary studies, this review also refreshes many basics (e.g. human migration across the globe in Figure 1, in its 2017 guise), and explains important concepts not always widely known (e.g. archaic introgression of Neanderthal sequences; regulatory variants of gene expression eQTL versus protein quantitative trait loci – pQTL).
Their Table 1, Some iconic cases of positive selection in the human genome will find its way to slides in many presentations.
It is worthwhile that in addition to the strong emphasis on genetics driving quality and intensity of the immune response, the authors state on page 887 that “a large fraction of the variation in immune responses cannot be attributed to genetic factors”. They cite papers demonstrating roles of age and gender, annual seasonality, social environment, and gut microbiota composition.
In the last section the authors emphasize the role of environmental and cultural factors promoting transmission of advantageous or negative immune traits across generations, such as access to medical care, smoking, diet, and mate choice.
This concise review is also an excellent teaching resource. For instance, together with a review on evolutionary molecular medicine (Nesse, Ganten, Gregory and Omenn, 2012) and a glossary of evolutionary terms (INSERT LINK TO MY PDF HERE), a very doable starter package can be compiled for (medical) students as well as for more advanced audiences.
Instant classroom-flipping assignments are to have participants present 1-4 slide Powerpoints of five minutes to explain to peers the items covered in the figures of this review. For instance Figure 3, Natural selection and archaic introgression affect human genome diversity, provides good level conceptual and technical challenges for student didactic skills.
In conclusion, the two authors are to be highly commended on this useful paper. One would hope to see updates regularly of the same high quality, in view of the rapid advances in this field.
Prof. Dr. Jon D. Laman
Professor of Immune Physiology
Head Department of Neuroscience
University Medical Center Groningen
PO Box 196, 9700 AD Groningen, The Netherlands
Additional (teaching) materials;
Evolutionary molecular medicine.
Nesse RM, Ganten D, Gregory TR, Omenn GS.
J Mol Med (Berl). 2012, 90:509-22. doi: 10.1007/s00109-012-0889-9. Review.
Jon Laman Glossary of evolutionary terms 2017
(A pdf valuable for teaching and learning.)