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Course, academic year 2019/2020
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Evolutionary and ecological immunology - MB170P84
Title in English: Evolutionary and ecological immunology
Czech title: Evoluční a ekologická imunologie
Guaranteed by: Department of Zoology (31-170)
Faculty: Faculty of Science
Actual: from 2019
Semester: winter
E-Credits: 4
Examination process: winter s.:combined
Hours per week, examination: winter s.:3/0 C+Ex [hours/week]
Capacity: unlimited
Min. number of students: unlimited
State of the course: taught
Language: English
Level: specialized
Additional information:
Guarantor: RNDr. Michal Vinkler, Ph.D.
Teacher(s): RNDr. Michal Vinkler, Ph.D.
Annotation -
Last update: Ing. Jindřiška Peterková (24.04.2012)
Evolutionary ecology combines aspects of various biological disciplines that where earlier distinct, such as evolutionary
biology, immunology and parasitology. Evolutionary thinking has recently started to infiltrate into immunological research,
establishing a new branch of investigation termed evolutionary and ecological immunology. This change in perspectives is
potentially valuable both for basic research and practical applications in biomedicine as it may help to explain differences
between individuals in their immune function. Understanding the circumstances of emergence and evolution of the immune
system is also important from the point of view of zoological research of animal evolution and ecological investigation of
relationships between organisms. This series of lectures devoted to evolutionary and ecological immunology links
information on the immune system function (variability and redundancy of mechanisms, molecular polymorphism,
constrains and failures of immunity) with the knowledge of principles and mechanisms of host-parasite/pathogen evolution.
Where possible examples from biomedicine are provided and usage of the evolutionary ecology in classical immunology is
mentioned. The concept of lectures allows students to gain basics of evolutionary biology even without previous
experience in this discipline. The course is taught in English.
Literature -
Last update: RNDr. Michal Vinkler, Ph.D. (25.08.2015)

Main issues - Monographs


  • Schmid-Hempel P (2011) Evolutionary Parasitology: The Integrated Study of Infections, Immunology, Ecology, and Genetics. Oxford University Press, ISBN: 978-0199229499

  • Stearns SC, Koella JC (2008) Evolution in Health and Disease. Oxford University Press, ISBN: 978-0199207466

  • Gluckman P (2009) Principles of evolutionary medicine. Oxford University Press, ISBN: 978-0199236398

  • Perlman RL (2013) Evolution and medicine. Oxford University Press, ISBN: 978-0199661725

  • Thomas F, Guégan JF, Renaud F (2009) Ecology and Evolution of Parasitism: Hosts to Ecosystems. Oxford University Press, ISBN: 978-0199535330

  • Clayton DH, Moore J (1997) Host-Parasite Evolution: General Principles and Avian Models. Oxford University Press, ISBN: 978-0198548928



  • Patthy L (2008) Protein Evolution. Bleckwell, ISBN: 978-1405151665

  • Lesk AM (2008) Introduction to Bioinformatics. Oxford University Press, ISBN: 978-0199208043    

  • Yang Z (2014) Molecular Evolution: a Statistical Approach. Oxford University Press, ISBN: 978-0199602612



  • Malagoli D, Ottaviani E (2014) Eco-immunology: Evolutive Aspects and Future Perspectives. Springer, ISBN: 978-9401787116

  • Demas G, Nelson R (2011) Ecoimmunology. Oxford University Press, ISBN: 978-0199737345

  • Collinge SK, Ray C (2006) Disease Ecology: Community Structure and Pathogen Dynamics. Oxford University Press, ISBN: 978-0198567080

  • Morand S, Krasnov BR (2010) Biogeography of Host-Parasite Interactions. Oxford University Press, ISBN: 978-0199561346


    Basic sciences - Textbooks


  • Murphy K (2011) Janeway’s Immunobiology. Garland Science, ISBN: 978-0815342434

  • Abbas AK (2014) Basic immunology: functions and disorders of the immune system. Elsevier, ISBN: 9781455707072

  • Callahan GN, Yates RM (2014) Basic Veterinary Immunology. University Press of Colorado, ISBN: 978-1607322184

  • Male D, Brostoff J, Roth D, Roitt I (2006) Immunology. Mosby, ISBN: 978-0323033992

  • Hořejší V, Bartůňková J (2011) Základy imunologe. Triton, ISBN: 978-80-7387-280-9 (in Czech)



  • Barton NH, Briggs DEG, Eisen JA, Goldstein DB, Patel NH (2007) Evolution. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, ISBN: 978-0879696849

  • Ridley M (2003) Evolution. Bleckwell, ISBN: 978-1405103459

  • Flegr J (2009) Evoluční biologie. Academia, ISBN: 978-80-200-1767-3 (in Czech)


    Basic sciences - Relax


  • Zimmer C (2001) Parasite Rex: Inside the Bizarre World of Nature's Most Dangerous Creatures. Atria Books, ISBN: 978-0743200110

  • Dawkins R (2006) The Selfish Gene. Oxford University Press, ISBN: 978-0199291151

  • Dawkins R (1999) The Extended Phenotype. Oxford Paperbacks, ISBN: 978-0192880512

  • Dawkins R (2010) The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution. Free Press, ISBN: 978-1416594796

  • Ridley M (2003) The Red Queen. Harper Perennial, ISBN: 978-0060556570

  • Flegr J (2008) Frozen Evolution: Or, that's not the way it is, Mr. Darwin - Farewell to selfish gene. Univerzita Karlova, ISBN: 978-8086561738

  • Mihulka, Storch & Zrzavý (2004) Jak se dělá evoluce. Paseka, ISBN: 80-7185-578-2 (only in Czech)

Requirements to the exam -
Last update: RNDr. Michal Vinkler, Ph.D. (26.08.2015)

The course ends with a final examination. This examination has two parts: a written one and an oral one. The main aim of the course is not to force students to memorise all details but to help them understand the general principles. Therefore, the written part will take form of an essay on a chosen topic (if possible concerning the professional interests of the particular student; 1-2 pages long with 1.5 line spacing, ca. 700 words in total). The oral part of the examination will follow the written part and will be held in form of a discussion on the topic of the essay, setting the information into a general context. The discussion is collective; students are requested to prepare short introductory presentation (1 slide, 2-3 minutes) summarizing the content of the essay.

Syllabus -
Last update: RNDr. Jana Rubešová, Ph.D. (14.09.2019)
    1. Introduction to evolutionary thinking in immunology and biomedical research
  • Outline of the lecture

  • Evolution in diseases and its implications for biomedical research

  • Definition of basic terms in evolutionary biology, immunology, epidemiology and parasitology that are needed to begin

  • Brief recapitulation of basic evolutionary principles

  • Evolutionary forces posing on the parasite

  • Interaction of parasite with host population

  • Basics of epidemiology and disease ecology

    1. Immune system as a complex system of protective layers
  • Immune system structure

  • Anti-parasite behaviour

  • Immune system s.str. (principles and mechanisms)

  • Brief phylogeny of immunological mechanisms

  • Strategies of immune defence

  • Specificity and adaptivity

    1. Immunologically relevant variation in animal genomes
  • Sources and types of genetic variability

  • What can be learnt from individual molecular markers

  • Human genetic variability

  • Interspecific and intraspecific genetic variability

  • Variability in inbred strains

  • Somatic genetic variability

  • Variability in adaptive immunity

  • Cancer as a microevolutionary process

    1. Host-parasite coevolution: Drift & selection
  • Heritability of immune function

  • Genetic drift

  • Parasite-mediated natural selection

  • Red queen model

  • Arms race

  • Conditions of host-parasite coevolution

  • Testing selection

  • Selection for loss

  • Coevolution within proteins and on distance

    Evolutionary constraints

    1. Host-parasite coevolution: Maintenance of variability in immune related genes
  • Polymorphism observed in immune-related genes

  • Parasite-mediated natural selection

  • Balancing selection and its types

  • Gene-for-gene model, Matching alleles model and a continuum between them

  • Qualitative and quantitative resistance

  • Trans-species polymorphism

    1. Immunity-immunopathology balance
  • Parasite-induced pathogenesis - types

  • Inflammation

  • Response exhaustion

  • Parasite-induced immunopathology

  • Evolutionary consequences of immunopathology

  • Association between genotype and immunopathology

  • Evolutionary causes for immunopathology and autoimmune diseases

  • Trade-off principle in immunopathology

  • Autoimmunity and molecular mimicry

  • Hygiene hypothesis of allergy

    1. Speciation, hybridization and evolution of immunity
  • Types of speciation

  • Parasite pressures on differential adaptations in populations

  • Interspecific variability in immune defence

  • Host-parasite relationships in phylogeny

  • Effect of hybridisation

  • Convergence in immunity

    1. Ecological immunology
  • Ecological factors modulating immune function

  • Non-genetic variability in immune function (environment, maternal effects)

  • Costs of immune defence

  • Obligatory vs. facultative costs

  • Resistance vs. tolerance

  • Immunological trade-offs

  • Immunocompetence

    1. Physiological factors modulating immune function
  • Neuro-immune interactions

  • Direct and indirect effects of immunity on behaviour

  • Fever

  • Hormones and immunity

  • Melatonin and biorhythms

  • Stress and decrease in immune responsiveness

  • Testosterone

  • Immunological differences between sexes

    1. Sexual selection and evolution of anti-parasite resistance
  • Concept of sexual selection

  • Models of parasite-mediated sexual selection

  • Indicator hypothesis - ornaments and health

  • "Good genes" vs. "Complementary genes" hypothesis

  • MHC-based mate choice

  • Hypotheses on evolution of MHC variability

    1. Linking outer phenotypic traits to health and immunogenetics
  • Honesty of health signalling

  • Carotenoid-based ornaments as a model system

  • Hypotheses on significance of ornamentation in disease resistance evolution

  • Physiological pathways linking ornaments to health (Foraging ability hypothesis, Carotenoid trade-off hypothesis, Immunocompetence handicap hypothesis, Antioxidant role hypothesis, Oxidation handicap hypothesis, ‘Red herring‘ hypothesis, Carotenoid maintenance handicap hypothesis)

    1. Evolutionary context of aging and degenerative diseases
  • Ontogeny of immunity

  • Physiological causes of aging

  • Ageing and immunosenescence

  • Possible evolutionary reasons for aging

  • Implications of aging and immunosenescence to reproduction

  • Terminal investment hypothesis

    1. Final seminar
  • Brief presentations of students’ essays and discussion

The course is taught with the support of the project reg. number CZ.02.2.69/0.0/0.0/16_015/0002362
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