JCJC - Jeunes chercheuses & jeunes chercheurs

Evolutionary ecology and mechanisms of trans-generational immune priming in insects – IMM-PRIMING

Submission summary

Immune challenged vertebrates females transfer specific antibodies to their offspring, providing them with a temporary protection against the parasite during the time required for their immune system to mature. Invertebrates lack antibodies and, mainly for this reason, trans-generational transfer of immunity was believed to be missing. However, recent data, partly from the field of ecological immunology, provide evidence that an equivalent phenomenon does exist in arthropods. The most recent evidence in favour of a 'trans-generational immune priming' (TGIP) in invertebrates is provided by our work showing that, in the mealworm beetle, Tenebrio molitor (Coleoptera), that individuals subjected to a microbial challenge produce offspring with enhanced immunity through the inducible production of antimicrobial peptides in the haemolymph. These results raised numerous questions about the mechanisms involved that are entirely unknown, and about the evolutionary ecology of this phenomenon. From an ecological and evolutionary point of view, the occurrence of such a phenomenon in insects suggests that there is a selective advantage to facultatively enhance offspring immunity after being exposed to parasite infection. Indeed, after experiencing a parasitic attack, a host or its progeny might be subsequently exposed to a higher probability of infection, since parasites that are now present in the environment are likely to increase in frequency because on their reliance on hosts for transmission. Consequently, hosts exposed to a parasite infection may increase their net reproductive success by adjusting offspring immunity to improve resistance to prevailing parasites. The facultative aspect of such a phenomenon suggests it might also be costly and may constrain insects to optimise the adjustment of offspring immunity according to the actual risk of subsequent infection. In this project, we aim to study TGIP in Tenebrio molitor. Our objectives are to investigate the underlying mechanism(s) of TGIP and to examine its adaptive significance through the estimation of its associated costs and benefits.

Project coordination

Yannick MORET (Organisme de recherche)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


Help of the ANR 200,000 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: - 48 Months

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