Skip to main page content
Access keys NCBI Homepage MyNCBI Homepage Main Content Main Navigation
, 8 (7), 62

Parasite Immunomodulation and Polymorphisms of the Immune System


Parasite Immunomodulation and Polymorphisms of the Immune System

Rick M Maizels. J Biol.


Parasites are accomplished evaders of host immunity. Their evasion strategies have shaped every facet of the immune system, driving diversity within gene families and immune gene polymorphisms within populations. New studies published recently in BMC Biology and Journal of Experimental Medicine document parasite-associated immunosuppression in natural populations and suggest that host genetic variants favoring resistance to parasites may be detrimental in the absence of infection.


Figure 1
Figure 1
Categories of parasites, using the broader definition to include fungi and ectoparasites. An ectoparasite (a louse of mice) has recently been found to exert similar immunomodulatory effects to those associated with gastrointestinal helminth infection in a wild wood mouse population [2]. Shown are, clockwise from top left, Leishmania mexicana protozoal promastigotes (L. Prieto-Lafuente); Candida albicans (from ); Ixodes hexagonus (from Wikipedia [15]); and Heligmosomoides polygyrus adult nematode worms (C Finney).
Figure 2
Figure 2
Schematic diagram of the polymorphic elements in immune responsiveness and where pathogen immunomodulation has driven evolution. In black bold type are the immune system families that have diversified primarily at the level of receptor-ligand specificities; those loci in red italic type are loci encoding cytokines, transcriptional regulators and cell surface molecules that are generally polymorphic in promoter, intronic and 3' UTR sequences suggesting a regulatory or quantitative effect of polymorphism. Loci above the bifurcation generally determine T cell activation, and those below down-regulation, although the distinction is blurred: for example, IL-2 promotes both effector T cell proliferation and Treg survival. CLR, C-type lectin receptors, which recognize conserved glycans of pathogens; NLR, NOD-like receptors, intracellular receptors that recognize pathogen products; TLR, Toll-like receptors, which recognize conserved molecular ligands from pathogens; MHC, major histocompatibility molecules, which bind peptide fragments of pathogen proteins and display them for recognition by T cells; TCR, T cell receptor, the highly variable receptor through which T cells recognize their targets.

Similar articles

See all similar articles

Cited by 27 PubMed Central articles

See all "Cited by" articles


    1. Maizels RM. Infections and allergy – helminths, hygiene and host immune regulation. Curr Opin Immunol. 2005;17:656–661. doi: 10.1016/j.coi.2005.09.001. - DOI - PubMed
    1. Jackson JA, Friberg IM, Bolch L, Lowe A, Ralli C, Harris PD, Behnke JM, Bradley JE. Immunomodulatory parasites and toll-like receptor-mediated tumour necrosis factor alpha responsiveness in wild mammals. BMC Biology. 2009;7:16. doi: 10.1186/1741-7007-7-16. - DOI - PMC - PubMed
    1. Fumagalli M, Pozzoli U, Cagliani R, Comi GP, Riva S, Clerici M, Bresolin N, Sironi M. Parasites represent a major selective force for interleukin genes and shape the genetic predisposition to autoimmune conditions. J Exp Med. 2009;206:1395–1408. doi: 10.1084/jem.20082779. - DOI - PMC - PubMed
    1. Miller SI, Ernst RK, Bader MW. LPS, TLR4 and infectious disease diversity. Nat Rev Microbiol. 2005;3:36–46. doi: 10.1038/nrmicro1068. - DOI - PubMed
    1. Roach JC, Glusman G, Rowen L, Kaur A, Purcell MK, Smith KD, Hood LE, Aderem A. The evolution of vertebrate Toll-like receptors. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2005;102:9577–9582. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0502272102. - DOI - PMC - PubMed

Publication types