Dissecting the dynamics of trans-generational immune priming
Kurtz J, Armitage SAO – 2017
The transfer of immunity from mother to offspring is a central way to endow the offspring with increased protection against pathogens. This phenomenon is not only found within the vertebrate domain: in some circumstances, invertebrate mothers can also give their offspring an immune kick-start, which is termed trans-generational immune priming (TGIP). TGIP has been uncovered for a number of invertebrate species, but it is not ubiquitously evident. The reasons for which are not known. In this issue of Molecular Ecology, Tate, Andolfatto, Demuth, and Graham () probe the molecular underpinnings of TGIP in concert with the temporal dynamics of the response in the red flour beetle, Tribolium castaneum, infected with the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Figure ). They provide previously lacking evidence for the repeatability of TGIP, meaning that when averaged across several experiments, the offspring of mothers infected with heat-killed bacteria had better survival when they themselves were infected with live bacteria than offspring from mothers that had not encountered the bacterium. In a detailed temporal examination of the offspring's acute infection phase (zero to 24 hr after infection), Tate et al. () follow T. castaneum's gene regulation responses to infection while simultaneously documenting bacterial load. Such an approach gives considerable insight into the physiological processes that occur in primed offspring, and a first glance at a potential role for tolerance and effects on host metabolism that might even resemble trained immunity, which is a form of innate immune memory in vertebrates.