RCN FRIMEDBIO Program Funds New CEES Cod Project
Team lead by Kjetill Jakobsen to explore the evolutionary and physiological underpinnings of the Atlantic cod's unique immune system.
The CEES research team of Bastiaan Star, Sissel Jentoft, Thomas Haverkamp, and Kjetill Jakobsen have received funding for their project entitled 'Functional and comparative immunology of a teleost’s world without MHC II'. The project is to be funded through the 'Fri prosjektstøtte' (FRIMEDBIO) program. The CEES group will work with collaborating partners from Nofima (Marit Seppola and Helene Mikkelsen), Oslo University Hospital (Ludvig M. Sollid), University of Basel Zoologisches Institut (Walter Salzburger), University of Bath (Edward Feil), University of Liverpool (Michael Berenbrink), TI-Insitute of Fisheries Ecology (Reinhold Hanel), and McGill University (Ken Dewar).
The RCN received 378 researcher project applications, of which 26 were funded, an approval rate of just under 7%. Projects were funded for between 2.5 and 9 million kroner for the period 2013-2016.
The mechanisms underlying the vertebrate immune response are remarkably complex. The fact that core elements of this system have been conserved since its emergence in the jawed vertebrate ancestor underscores the importance of the immune system as a crucial component for host persistence. Remarkably, the CEES group have previously shown that Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) has lost the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) II system. In humans, defects in this system lead to immunodeficiency and death. Moreover, specific gene expansions suggest that the Atlantic cod immune system has evolved alternative strategies to cope with this loss. Nevertheless, an evolutionary, functional and co-evolutionary understanding of this unique phenomenon is lacking. Here they will investigate these issues through a multidisciplinary approach, by exploiting recent advances in genomics and state-of-the-art immunological functional tools. First, the group will sequence a range of teleost lineages to investigate the evolutionary origin of the Atlantic cod immune system with an aim to associate biological or environmental factors to the loss of MHC II and to investigate the necessity for alternative immunological strategies to emerge. Second, through in vitro and in vivo immunological experiments, they will provide a deeper understanding of the basic function of this immune system, potentially uncovering novel immune functionality at the gene or pathway level. The final aim is to investigate whether the loss of MHC II has an effect on the composition of the microbial community in teleosts, which would emphasize the important role of host-pathogen co-evolutionary dynamics. Overall, this work will generate a deeper understanding about the diversity and evolution of the vertebrate immune system, widening a perspective that has so far been restricted by the preferential use of mammalian model systems.