Evolution of cellular immunity effector cells; perspective on cytotoxic and phagocytic cellular lineages

Edna Ayerim Mandujano-Tinoco, Eliya Sultan, Aner Ottolenghi, Orly Gershoni-Yahalom, Benyamin Rosental

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The immune system has evolved to protect organisms from infections caused by bacteria, viruses, and parasitic pathogens. In addition, it provides regenerative capacities, tissue maintenance, and self/non-self recognition of foreign tissues. Phagocytosis and cytotoxicity are two prominent cellular immune activities positioned at the base of immune effector function in mammals. Although these immune mechanisms have diversified into a wide heterogeneous repertoire of effector cells, it appears that they share some common cellular and molecular features in all animals, but also some interesting convergent mechanisms. In this review, we will explore the current knowledge about the evolution of phagocytic and cytotoxic immune lineages against pathogens, in the clearance of damaged cells, for regeneration, for histocompatibility recognition, and in killing virally infected cells. To this end, we give different immune examples of multicellular organism models, ranging from the roots of bilateral organisms to chordate invertebrates, comparing to vertebrates’ lineages. In this review, we compare cellular lineage homologies at the cellular and molecular levels. We aim to highlight and discuss the diverse function plasticity within the evolved immune effector cells, and even suggest the costs and benefits that it may imply for organisms with the meaning of greater defense against pathogens but less ability to regenerate damaged tissues and organs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1853
Issue number8
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2021


  • Adaptive immunity
  • Comparative immunology
  • Cytotoxicity
  • Innate immunity
  • Phagocytosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (all)


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