The evolutionary dynamics of within-generation immune priming in invertebrate hosts

J R Soc Interface. 2012 Dec 26;10(80):20120887. doi: 10.1098/rsif.2012.0887. Print 2013 Mar 6.


While invertebrates lack the machinery necessary for 'acquired immunity', there is increasing empirical evidence that exposure to low levels of disease may 'prime' an invertebrate's immune response, increasing its defence to subsequent exposure. Despite this increasing empirical data, there has been little theoretical attention paid to immune priming. Here, we investigate the evolution of immune priming, focusing on the role of the unique feedbacks generated by a newly developed susceptible-primed-infected epidemiological model. Contrasting our results with previous models on the evolution of acquired immunity, we highlight that there are important implications to the evolution of immunity through priming owing to these different epidemiological feedbacks. In particular, we find that in contrast to acquired immunity, priming is strongly selected for at high as well as intermediate pathogen virulence. We also find that priming may be greatest at either intermediate or high host lifespans depending on the severity of disease. Furthermore, hosts faced with more severe pathogens are more likely to evolve diversity in priming. Finally, we show when the evolution of priming leads to the exclusion of the pathogens or hosts experiencing population cycles. Overall the model acts as a baseline for understanding the evolution of priming in host-pathogen systems.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arthropods* / immunology
  • Arthropods* / microbiology
  • Arthropods* / virology
  • Bacteria / immunology*
  • Bacterial Physiological Phenomena / immunology*
  • Biological Evolution
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions / physiology*
  • Immunologic Memory / physiology*
  • Virus Physiological Phenomena / immunology*
  • Viruses / immunology*