3 years ago

An Organismal Model for Gene Regulatory Networks in the Gut-Associated Immune Response.

Katherine M Buckley, Jonathan P Rast
The gut epithelium is an ancient site of complex communication between the animal immune system and the microbial world. While elements of self-non-self receptors and effector mechanisms differ greatly among animal phyla, some aspects of recognition, regulation, and response are broadly conserved. A gene regulatory network (GRN) approach provides a means to investigate the nature of this conservation and divergence even as more peripheral functional details remain incompletely understood. The sea urchin embryo is an unparalleled experimental model for detangling the GRNs that govern embryonic development. By applying this theoretical framework to the free swimming, feeding larval stage of the purple sea urchin, it is possible to delineate the conserved regulatory circuitry that regulates the gut-associated immune response. This model provides a morphologically simple system in which to efficiently unravel regulatory connections that are phylogenetically relevant to immunity in vertebrates. Here, we review the organism-wide cellular and transcriptional immune response of the sea urchin larva. A large set of transcription factors and signal systems, including epithelial expression of interleukin 17 (IL17), are important mediators in the activation of the early gut-associated response. Many of these have homologs that are active in vertebrate immunity, while others are ancient in animals but absent in vertebrates or specific to echinoderms. This larval model provides a means to experimentally characterize immune function encoded in the sea urchin genome and the regulatory interconnections that control immune response and resolution across the tissues of the organism.

Publisher URL: http://doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2017.01297

DOI: 10.3389/fimmu.2017.01297

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