Memórias do Instituto Oswaldo Cruz
Print version ISSN 0074-0276
TOSTA, Carlos Eduardo. Coevolutionary networks: a novel approach to understanding the relationships of humans with the infectious agents. Mem. Inst. Oswaldo Cruz [online]. 2001, vol.96, n.3, pp. 415-425. ISSN 0074-0276. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S0074-02762001000300024.
Human organism is interpenetrated by the world of microorganisms, from the conception until the death. This interpenetration involves different levels of interactions between the partners including trophic exchanges, bi-directional cell signaling and gene activation, besides genetic and epigenetic phenomena, and tends towards mutual adaptation and coevolution. Since these processes are critical for the survival of individuals and species, they rely on the existence of a complex organization of adaptive systems aiming at two apparently conflicting purposes: the maintenance of the internal coherence of each partner, and a mutually advantageous coexistence and progressive adaptation between them. Humans possess three adaptive systems: the nervous, the endocrine and the immune system, each internally organized into subsystems functionally connected by intraconnections, to maintain the internal coherence of the system. The three adaptive systems aim at the maintenance of the internal coherence of the organism and are functionally linked by interconnections, in such way that what happens to one is immediately sensed by the others. The different communities of infectious agents that live within the organism are also organized into functional networks. The members of each community are linked by intraconnections, represented by the mutual trophic, metabolic and other influences, while the different infectious communities affect each other through interconnections. Furthermore, by means of its adaptive systems, the organism influences and is influenced by the microbial communities through the existence of transconnections. It is proposed that these highly complex and dynamic networks, involving gene exchange and epigenetic phenomena, represent major coevolutionary forces for humans and microorganisms.
Keywords : coevolutionary networks; coevolution; gene exchange; infectron; microbial communities; immunoneuroendocrine system.