Ann T. Tate, a research assistant professor at the University of Houston whose research focuses on the ecological and genetic factors influencing invertebrate immunity, will present “Understanding the Role of Immunological Plasticity in Infection Dynamics Across Biological Scales” at 4 p.m. Thursday, October 22, in 210 Moulton Hall.


Organisms do not begin life with fully formed and fully protective immune systems. Plasticity is a hallmark of immunological ontogeny, where genetic and ecological factors interact to induce, repress, and bias certain arms of the immune system as a host proceeds from birth to death. In theory, plasticity is an efficient way to ensure that a host only pays the energetic and pathological costs of an immune response when infection presents a clear danger to fitness. However, the physiological mechanisms underlying plastic immune responses often share architecture with other organismal traits, potentially giving rise to pleiotropic antagonism across host development. Moreover, plastic immune responses are likely to show considerable heterogeneity at the population level, affecting epidemiological parameters and the dynamics of infection. In this talk, I will discuss my experimental and theoretical efforts to understand the roles of immunological plasticity at the molecular, organismal, and population levels as they impact disease dynamics within and between hosts.