Research Topic

The Past and the Future of Human Immunity under Viral Evolutionary Pressure

About this Research Topic

The human immune system is inherently variable, a feature that allows it to meet new challenges from the diverse array of pathogens in the environment. The ecology of modern humans is historically unique as it covers a wide range of geographic areas. The spread of pathogens from once discrete environments due to global travel and climate change means that new challenges will arise. Furthermore, predictable but as yet unrealized zoonotic challenges could occur that challenge and threaten the survival of the human population.

There is a long-standing evolutionary battle between viruses and their hosts, with viruses known to have developed measures to counteract immune responses. In turn, this battle has also significantly influenced the evolution of host immune responses and has shaped the means by which immune cells combat pathogens. The ancient innate immune system is found in both invertebrates and vertebrates, while the adaptive immune system of jawed vertebrates is a more recent development. It is now well-known that the two systems are linked, with innate immunity hypothesized to have provided raw material for the emergence of the adaptive immune response. The adaptive immune response comprises several protein families (including B and T cell receptors, MHC and KIR proteins, for example) that are encoded by complex and variable genomic regions. This complexity enables for responsive genetic changes to occur in immune cells, such as the ability of genomic hypervariable regions in B cells to recombine in order to produce more specific antibodies. Indeed, the human immune system is thought to be continually evolving via various mechanisms such as changes in the genes encoding immune receptors and the regulatory sequences that control their expression. For example, there is some evidence that exogenous viral infections can alter the expression of endogenous retroviruses, some of which contribute to the immune response.

Human-virus co-evolutionary responses occur within the scale of a human lifetime, but may be the result of long-term virus and human co-existence over thousands to millions of years, or of the accumulation of circumstantial or occasional exposure of humans to viral “passengers”. As high throughput sequencing technologies evolve, we are able to build better hypotheses and to better understand the potential roles of “unseen” viruses (those that do not cause significant morbidities) with respect to their contribution to human immunity and pathophysiology.

In this Research Topic, we aim to explore the evolutionary history of human innate and adaptive immunity in light of viral challenges. We wish to address how viral infections have led and will lead to the alteration and/or diversification of immune responses, examining the interface of human host-virus interactions not only mechanistically but in light of evolution. We seek articles that discuss the genetic diversity of the human innate and adaptive immune systems, including elements of these systems that exhibit variability and responsiveness to new viral threats. For example, proteins such as HLA and KIR that are encoded by genomic regions that exhibit diversity within the human population. How does such diversity challenge new viral infections and do these responses shape the genetics of the immune system? Furthermore, are there hallmarks of viral infection in human immunity? We are also interested in exploring interactions of immunity with ecological and epidemiological human factors, including immuno-mathematical models and simulations that take into account the host immunity-virus interface of the human population.

We welcome the submission of Original Research and Review articles that address aspects of virus-human immune evolution to this Research Topic. The aspects to be addressed, but not limited to, are:

1. Genetic evolutionary mechanisms in immune cells in response to viral challenge.
2. Modulation of anti-viral gene expression in immune cells.
3. Selection of NK cell subtypes in viral infections.
4. Paleovirology and human immunity.
5. Responses to new viral threats such as zoonoses.
6. The effects of viral immuno-evolution on eco-epidemiological dynamics.
7. Virus-human co-evolution under the scope of immunity.
8. Next generation sequencing-based methodologies to understand the co-evolution of virus and human immune responses.
9. Immunotherapeutics and viral evolution.


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

The human immune system is inherently variable, a feature that allows it to meet new challenges from the diverse array of pathogens in the environment. The ecology of modern humans is historically unique as it covers a wide range of geographic areas. The spread of pathogens from once discrete environments due to global travel and climate change means that new challenges will arise. Furthermore, predictable but as yet unrealized zoonotic challenges could occur that challenge and threaten the survival of the human population.

There is a long-standing evolutionary battle between viruses and their hosts, with viruses known to have developed measures to counteract immune responses. In turn, this battle has also significantly influenced the evolution of host immune responses and has shaped the means by which immune cells combat pathogens. The ancient innate immune system is found in both invertebrates and vertebrates, while the adaptive immune system of jawed vertebrates is a more recent development. It is now well-known that the two systems are linked, with innate immunity hypothesized to have provided raw material for the emergence of the adaptive immune response. The adaptive immune response comprises several protein families (including B and T cell receptors, MHC and KIR proteins, for example) that are encoded by complex and variable genomic regions. This complexity enables for responsive genetic changes to occur in immune cells, such as the ability of genomic hypervariable regions in B cells to recombine in order to produce more specific antibodies. Indeed, the human immune system is thought to be continually evolving via various mechanisms such as changes in the genes encoding immune receptors and the regulatory sequences that control their expression. For example, there is some evidence that exogenous viral infections can alter the expression of endogenous retroviruses, some of which contribute to the immune response.

Human-virus co-evolutionary responses occur within the scale of a human lifetime, but may be the result of long-term virus and human co-existence over thousands to millions of years, or of the accumulation of circumstantial or occasional exposure of humans to viral “passengers”. As high throughput sequencing technologies evolve, we are able to build better hypotheses and to better understand the potential roles of “unseen” viruses (those that do not cause significant morbidities) with respect to their contribution to human immunity and pathophysiology.

In this Research Topic, we aim to explore the evolutionary history of human innate and adaptive immunity in light of viral challenges. We wish to address how viral infections have led and will lead to the alteration and/or diversification of immune responses, examining the interface of human host-virus interactions not only mechanistically but in light of evolution. We seek articles that discuss the genetic diversity of the human innate and adaptive immune systems, including elements of these systems that exhibit variability and responsiveness to new viral threats. For example, proteins such as HLA and KIR that are encoded by genomic regions that exhibit diversity within the human population. How does such diversity challenge new viral infections and do these responses shape the genetics of the immune system? Furthermore, are there hallmarks of viral infection in human immunity? We are also interested in exploring interactions of immunity with ecological and epidemiological human factors, including immuno-mathematical models and simulations that take into account the host immunity-virus interface of the human population.

We welcome the submission of Original Research and Review articles that address aspects of virus-human immune evolution to this Research Topic. The aspects to be addressed, but not limited to, are:

1. Genetic evolutionary mechanisms in immune cells in response to viral challenge.
2. Modulation of anti-viral gene expression in immune cells.
3. Selection of NK cell subtypes in viral infections.
4. Paleovirology and human immunity.
5. Responses to new viral threats such as zoonoses.
6. The effects of viral immuno-evolution on eco-epidemiological dynamics.
7. Virus-human co-evolution under the scope of immunity.
8. Next generation sequencing-based methodologies to understand the co-evolution of virus and human immune responses.
9. Immunotherapeutics and viral evolution.


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

15 December 2017 Abstract
30 April 2018 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

15 December 2017 Abstract
30 April 2018 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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