Shaping Variation in the Human Immune System

Trends Immunol. 2016 Oct;37(10):637-646. doi: 10.1016/


Immune responses demonstrate a high level of intra-species variation, compensating for the specialization capacity of pathogens. The recent advent of in-depth immune phenotyping projects in large-scale cohorts has allowed a first look into the factors that shape the inter-individual diversity of the human immune system. Genetic approaches have identified genetic diversity as drivers of 20-40% of the variation between the immune systems of individuals. The remaining 60-80% is shaped by intrinsic factors, with age being the predominant factor, as well as by environmental influences, where cohabitation and chronic viral infections were identified as key mediators. We review and integrate the recent in-depth large-scale studies on human immune diversity and its potential impact on health. VIDEO ABSTRACT.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cohort Studies
  • Gene-Environment Interaction*
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Humans
  • Immune System*
  • Immunophenotyping
  • Population Groups*
  • Risk
  • Virus Diseases / epidemiology
  • Virus Diseases / genetics*
  • Virus Diseases / immunology