Insect Hemocytes and the Problem of Host Recognition of Foreignness

  • A. J. Nappi


If cellular and humoral immune reactions of vertebrate species were used as evaluative criteria, insects would not be considered immunocompetent. Immunologic specificity, as defined by antigen—antibody complementarity, and immunologic memory, as measured by anamnestic responses or second-set allograft rejections, are not characterisitc of insect immunity (Good and Papermaster, 1964; Saunders, 1970). However, even in the absence of these and other “deficiencies,” cellular and humoral immune reactions of insects are excellent homeostatic adaptations that effectively discern and combat foreignness and abnormal or effete host tissues. Against those foreign organisms too large to be phagocytized, the principal cellular reaction of insects is encapsulation. Typically, the initial reaction is characterized by aggregation of host blood cells or hemocytes to form a capsule around a parasite, and the deposition of melanin on or very near the outer surface of the parasite (c.f. Salt, 1963, 1970; Poinar, 1969; Shapiro, 1969). Against various microbial parasites, some insects produce humoral substances (antibacterial, bactericidal, lytic, etc.) that provide some degree of immunity. Unfortunately, the origin of these substances is unknown. Moreover, except for nonspecificity and lack of similarity to vertebrate antibodies (immunoglobulins), little is known of their chemical nature (Briggs, 1958, 1964; Stephens, 1959, 1962a,b, 1963ad; Stephens and Marshall, 1962; Chadwick, 1967; Hink and Briggs, 1968, 1969; Chadwick and Vilk, 1969; Boman et al., 1972).


Juvenile Hormone Imaginal Disc Infected Larva Host Recognition Insect Parasitism 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1974

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. J. Nappi
    • 1
  1. 1.Biological SciencesState University of New YorkOswegoUSA

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