Research Topic

Comparative Immunology of Marine Mammals

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Marine mammals (MMs) are regarded as valuable bioindicators with tremendous potential for public health. However, many aspects of their immune system remain poorly understood. Monitoring immune responses of MMs is pivotal for the health assessment of both individuals and populations, as well as providing the ...

Marine mammals (MMs) are regarded as valuable bioindicators with tremendous potential for public health. However, many aspects of their immune system remain poorly understood. Monitoring immune responses of MMs is pivotal for the health assessment of both individuals and populations, as well as providing the scientific basis for analyzing the anthropogenic environmental impact on marine ecosystems and marine-terrestrial interphases. For instance, the increasing susceptibility of Mediterranean whale and dolphin populations to various diseases has been linked to a possible negative influence of multiple environmental factors on the immune system of MMs.

The currently limited knowledge on MM immunology has mainly centered on: (i) lymphocyte transformation assays; (ii) natural killer cell activity; (iii) phagocytic activity and respiratory burst; (iv) humoral immune responses; (v) cytokines and (vi) acute phase immune responses. Therefore, further research is essential for deepening our understanding of the specificity of the host immune response in MMs, with a particular emphasis on the genesis and dynamics of (i) cytokine ‘networks’ or ‘signatures’; (ii) transcriptional regulation of immune cells and (iii) major immunomodulators. High-throughput molecular techniques, such as transcriptomic analysis and RNA sequencing, may enable the characterization of immune gene responses at the transcriptomic level. This integrative and holistic approach requires sophisticated tools and methods capable of unveiling the diversity of immune cells and immunologically relevant molecules that orchestrate environmental adaptation and immune protection against pathogens in MMs.

This Research Topic aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the current knowledge of MM immunology with a particular emphasis on structural and functional studies at the protein and cellular level. We wish to encourage and coordinate studies and investigations in order to fill gaps of knowledge in this field. This article collection aims to help gain more data regarding: a) The characterization of the immune system in several species of MMs, i.e. cetaceans, pinnipeds and sirenians; b) The interplay between the host immune system and the most relevant pathogens, e.g., Morbillivirus, Brucella, Toxoplasma gondii and c) The possible interplay between the immune system and contaminants.

We welcome the submission of Original Research, Review, Mini-Review, Methods and Perspective articles on the immunology of marine mammals that cover, but are not limited to, the following sub-topics:

1. Cellular innate immunity: neutrophils and phagocytosis.
2. Humoral innate immunity: inflammatory mediators and complement system.
3. Antigen presenting cells.
4. Adaptive immune response in MMs with a particular focus on lymphocyte sub-populations.
5. Cytokines and receptors.
6. Specificity in the immune system.
7. Genomics and the immune system.
8. Host-pathogen interactions and adaptation.
9. The microbiota and the immune system.
10. Immune responses to environmental stressors in MMs.


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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