Immune system and immune responses in fish and their role in comparative immunity study: a model for higher organisms

Immunol Lett. Nov-Dec 2012;148(1):23-33. doi: 10.1016/j.imlet.2012.08.003. Epub 2012 Aug 10.


The basal position of fish in vertebrate phylogeny makes them very attractive for genomic and functional comparative immunity studies. Adaptive immunity arose early in vertebrate evolution, 450 million years ago between the divergence of cyclostomes and cartilaginous fish. The fundamental immune molecules, which include Ag-recognizing lymphocytes, immunoglobulins (Abs and Ig-family TCR), MHC products, and recombination-activating (RAG) 1 and 2 genes and the recombination mechanisms (cause of diversity in TCRs and Igs) are similar in fish and mammals. These molecules and their immune response mechanisms unravelled the primordial vertebrate immune system repertoire and adaptive radiations. Moreover, screening of animal models like zebrafish has a great importance to discover genes involved in T cell development, thymic organogenesis, and in immunity to infections. The zebrafish model may also be useful for cancer research due to its various features like rapid development, tractable genetics, ease in in vivo imaging and chemical screening.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Fish Proteins / genetics
  • Fish Proteins / immunology*
  • Fishes / genetics
  • Fishes / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immune System / cytology
  • Immune System / immunology*
  • Immune System / metabolism
  • Immunity / genetics
  • Immunity / immunology*
  • Immunoglobulins / genetics
  • Immunoglobulins / immunology
  • Models, Genetic
  • Models, Immunological
  • Receptors, Antigen / genetics
  • Receptors, Antigen / immunology


  • Fish Proteins
  • Immunoglobulins
  • Receptors, Antigen