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Basal metabolic rate and the evolution of the adaptive immune system

  • Lars Råberg
  • Mikael Vestberg
  • Dennis Hasselquist
  • Rikard Holmdahl
  • Erik Svensson
  • Jan-Åke Nilsson
Publishing year: 2002
Language: English
Pages: 817-821
Publication/Series: Royal Society of London. Proceedings B. Biological Sciences
Volume: 269
Issue: 1493
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Royal Society
Additional info: The information about affiliations in this record was updated in December 2015. The record was previously connected to the following departments: Evolutionary Ecology (432112238), Medical Inflammation Research (013212019), MEMEG (432112240)

Abstract english

Vertebrates have evolved an adaptive immune system in addition to the ancestral innate immune system. It is often assumed that a trade-off between costs and benefits of defence governs the evolution of immunological defence, but the costs and benefits specific to the adaptive immune system are poorly known. We used genetically engineered mice lacking lymphocytes (i.e. mice without adaptive, but with innate, immunity) as a model of the ancestral state in the evolution of the vertebrate immune system. To investigate if the magnitude of adaptive defence is constrained by the energetic costs of producing lymphocytes etc., we compared the basal metabolic rate of normal and lymphocyte-deficient mice. We found that lymphocyte-deficient mice had a higher basal metabolic rate than normal mice with both innate and adaptive immune defence. This suggests that the evolution of the adaptive immune system has not been constrained by energetic costs. Rather, it should have been favoured by the energy savings associated with a combination of innate and adaptive immune defence.


  • Immunology in the medical area


  • Immunology
  • Molecular Ecology and Evolution Lab
  • ISSN: 1471-2954
Dennis Hasselquist
E-mail: dennis [dot] hasselquist [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se



+46 46 222 37 08



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PhD Students, assistant supervisor


Interview about my research in the Swedish podcast "Forskarn & jag"