An overview of the lagomorph immune system and its genetic diversity.

Our knowledge of the lagomorph immune system remains largely based upon studies of the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus), a major model for studies of immunology. Two important and devastating viral diseases, rabbit hemorrhagic disease and myxomatosis, are affecting European rabbit populations. In this context, we discuss the genetic diversity of the European rabbit immune system and extend to available information about other lagomorphs. Regarding innate immunity, we review the most recent advances in identifying interleukins, chemokines and chemokine receptors, Toll-like receptors, antiviral proteins (RIG-I and Trim5), and the genes encoding fucosyltransferases that are utilized by rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus as a portal for invading host respiratory and gut epithelial cells. Evolutionary studies showed that several genes of innate immunity are evolving by strong natural selection. Studies of the leporid CCR5 gene revealed a very dramatic change unique in mammals at the second extracellular loop of CCR5 resulting from a gene conversion event with the paralogous CCR2. For the adaptive immune system, we review genetic diversity at the loci encoding antibody variable and constant regions, the major histocompatibility complex (RLA) and T cells. Studies of IGHV and IGKC genes expressed in leporids are two of the few examples of trans-species polymorphism observed outside of the major histocompatibility complex. In addition, we review some endogenous viruses of lagomorph genomes, the importance of the European rabbit as a model for human disease studies, and the anticipated role of next-generation sequencing in extending knowledge of lagomorph immune systems and their evolution.

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