Although adaptive immunity is unique to vertebrates, the innate immune response seems to have ancient origins. Common features of innate immunity in vertebrates, invertebrate animals and plants include defined receptors for microbe-associated molecules, conserved mitogen-associated protein kinase signaling cascades and the production of antimicrobial peptides. It is commonly reported that these similarities in innate immunity represent a process of divergent evolution from an ancient unicellular eukaryote that pre-dated the divergence of the plant and animal kingdoms. However, at present, data suggest that the seemingly analogous regulatory modules used in plant and animal innate immunity are a consequence of convergent evolution and reflect inherent constraints on how an innate immune system can be constructed.
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I thank C. Dardick, W. Dietrich, J. Dangl, J. Ewbank, J. Jones, T. Nurnberger, P. Ronald, P. Schulze-Lefert and J. Sheen for comments.
The author declares no competing financial interests.
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Ausubel, F. Are innate immune signaling pathways in plants and animals conserved?. Nat Immunol 6, 973–979 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1038/ni1253
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