Measuring immune selection

Parasitology. 2002;125 Suppl:S3-16. doi: 10.1017/s0031182002002214.


Immune responses that kill pathogens or reduce their reproductive rate are generally important in protecting hosts from infection and disease. Pathogens that escape the full impact of such responses will survive, and any heritable genetic basis of this evasion will be selected. Due to the memory component of vertebrate immune responses, pathogens with rare alleles of a target antigen can have an advantage over those with common alleles, leading to the maintenance of a polymorphism. At the genetic level, there ought to be detectable signatures of balancing selection in the genes encoding these antigens. Here, methods for identifying these selective signatures are reviewed. Their practical utility for identifying which antigens are targets of protective immune responses is discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigenic Variation / genetics*
  • Host-Parasite Interactions / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate / genetics*
  • Phylogeny
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • Selection, Genetic*