Mechanisms and methods in ecoimmunology: Integrating within-organism and between-organism processes


Synopsis Ecoimmunology utilizes techniques from traditionally laboratory-based disciplines-for example, immunology, genomics, proteomics, neuroendocrinology, and cell biology-to reveal how the immune systems of wild organisms both shape and respond to ecological and evolutionary pressures. Immunological phenotypes are embedded within a mechanistic pathway leading from genotype through physiology to shape higher-order biological phenomena. As such, ''mechanisms'' in ecoimmunology can refer to both the within-host processes that shape immunological phenotypes, or it can refer the ways in which different immunological phenotypes alter between-organism processes at ecological and evolutionary scales. The mechanistic questions ecoimmunologists can ask, both within-organisms and between-organisms, however, often have been limited by techniques that do not easily transfer to wild, non-model systems. Thus, a major focus in ecoimmunology has been developing and refining the available toolkit. Recently, this toolkit has been expanding at an unprecedented rate, bringing new challenges to choosing techniques and standardizing protocols across studies. By confronting these challenges, we will be able to enhance ecoimmunological inquiries into the physiological basis of lifehistory trade-offs; the development of low-cost biomarkers for susceptibility to disease; and the investigation of the ecophysiological underpinnings of disease ecology, behavior, and the coevolution of host-parasite systems. The technical advances in, and crossover technologies from, disciplines associated with ecoimmunology and how these advances can help us understand the mechanistic basis of immunological variability in wild species were the focus of the symposium, Methods and Mechanisms in Ecoimmunology. © The Author 2014.

Publication Title

Integrative and Comparative Biology