The Story Behind Immunity

by Bidita Debnath on Jun 17 2014 11:26 PM

 The Story Behind Immunity
Immunity is what stops you dying from a tiny pinprick or a common cold.
Differences in resistance or tolerance to disease influence who catches the bug that's going around the office, or which species succumb to the deadly fungus devastating frogs around the world. But immunity involves more than just the immune cells that recognize and hunt down pathogens. It is influenced by the host's health, physiology, behavior, and environment. And underlying all these processes and their intricate interactions are the genes that govern their function.

This broader conception of the genetic underpinnings of host defenses against pathogens reflects the increasing complexity of ideas in this field. Scientists are turning to a wide variety of organisms and approaches to tame this complexity and, in some cases, to use their findings to improve human health. To encourage the emerging conversation between disciplines and to catalyze new advances, the Genetics Society of America journals GENETICS and G3: Genes|Genomes|Genetics have launched an ongoing collection of research articles that address the genetics of immunity. Several articles from the collection are published today in a special section of the June issues of both journals, accompanied by a commentary article that places the articles in context.

So far, articles published in the collection include research on fruit flies, an important genetic model organism, addressing the ways in which the demands of mating and reproduction compete with immunity and how immunity changes with age. Other articles examine crucial applied questions, such as how genes influence autoimmune thyroid diseases, or which chickens are the most resistant to colonization by Campylobacter jejuni, one of the most common causes of food-borne illness in humans. Many more articles are listed in the collection (, which will be bolstered by new articles as they are published.

"Defense against infection is profoundly important for our health, and for the agriculture and ecosystems that sustain us. But it is being increasingly recognized that immunity has complex determinants, so genetic research in this area is becoming broader and more diverse. We hope this collection will become a home for much exciting and significant research in this field in the future." says Brian Lazzaro, biologist at Cornell University and one of the editors of the new collection.

The collection includes research from City University of New York, Cornell University, Free University Berlin, German Cancer Research Center, Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, National Jewish Health and University of Colorado, Trinity College, University of Dublin, University of Maryland, University of Massachusetts, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, University of Saskatchewan, University of Texas and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

B. Lazzaro and D.S. Schneider The Genetics of Immunity. GENETICS June 2014 197:467-470; doi:10.1534/genetics.114.165449

C. Small, J. Ramroop, M. Otazo, L. H. Huang, S. Saleque, and S. Govind An Unexpected Link Between Notch Signaling and ROS in Restricting the Differentiation of Hematopoietic Progenitors in Drosophila. GENETICS June 2014 197:471-483; doi:10.1534/genetics.113.159210

L. De Arras, R. Laws, S. M. Leach, K. Pontis, J. H. Freedman, D. A. Schwartz, and S. Alper Comparative Genomics RNAi Screen Identifies Eftud2 as a Novel Regulator of Innate Immunity. GENETICS June 2014 197:485-496; doi:10.1534/genetics.113.160499

B. Stronach, A. L. Lennox, and R. A. Garlena Domain Specificity of MAP3K Family Members, MLK and Tak1, for JNK Signaling in Drosophila. GENETICS 197:497-513; doi:10.1534/genetics.113.160937

G. R. Tiller, and D. A. Garsin The SKPO-1 Peroxidase Functions in the Hypodermis To Protect Caenorhabditis elegans from Bacterial Infection. GENETICS June 2014 197:515-526; doi:10.1534/genetics.113.160606

P.R. Johnston, O.M., and J. Rolff Inducible Defenses Stay Up Late: Temporal Patterns of Immune Gene Expression in Tenebrio molitor. G3: Genes|Genomes|Genetics June 2014 4:947-955; doi:10.1534/g3.113.008516

N. Lawless, T.A. Reinhardt, K. Bryan, M. Baker, B. Pesch, D. Zimmerman, K. Zuelke, T. Sonstegard, C. O'Farrelly, J.D. Lippolis, and D.J. Lynn MicroRNA regulation of bovine monocyte inflammatory and metabolic networks in an in vivo infection model. G3: Genes|Genomes|Genetics June 2014 4:957-971; doi:10.1534/g3.113.009936

FS Muhali, TT Cai, JL Zhu, Q Qin, J Xu, ST He, XH Shi, WJ Jiang, L Xiao, DF Li, and JA Zhang Polymorphisms of CLEC16A Region and Autoimmune Thyroid Diseases. G3: Genes|Genomes|Genetics June 2014 4:973-978; doi:10.1534/g3.114.010926

ABOUT GENETICS: Since 1916, GENETICS ( has published high quality, original research on a range of topics bearing on inheritance, including population and evolutionary genetics, complex traits, developmental and behavioral genetics, cellular genetics, gene expression, genome integrity and transmission, and genome and systems biology. A peer-reviewed and peer-edited publication of the Genetics Society of America, GENETICS is one of the world's most cited journals in genetics and heredity.

ABOUT GSA: Founded in 1931, the Genetics Society of America (GSA) is the professional scientific society for genetics researchers and educators. The Society's more than 5,000 members worldwide work to deepen our understanding of the living world by advancing the field of genetics, from the molecular to the population level. GSA promotes research and fosters communication through a number of GSA-sponsored conferences including regular meetings that focus on particular model organisms. GSA publishes two peer-reviewed, peer-edited scholarly journals: GENETICS, which has published high quality original research across the breadth of the field since 1916, and G3: Genes|Genomes|Genetics, an open-access journal launched in 2011 to disseminate high quality foundational research in genetics and genomics. The Society also has a deep commitment to education and fostering the next generation of scholars in the field. For more information about GSA, please visit