Bats are unique among mammals given their ability to fly, apparent tolerance of deadly viruses and extraordinary longevity. We propose that these traits are linked and driven by adaptations of the innate immune system. To explore this hypothesis we challenged macrophages from the greater mouse-eared bat, Myotis myotis and the house mouse, Mus musculus with toll like receptors (TLRs) ligands, lipopolysaccharides, LPS and polyinosinic-polycytidylic acid, Poly(I:C). Macrophages from both species presented a high level of mRNA induction of inferon β (INF-β), tumor necrosis factor (TNF) and interleukin-1β (Il-1β). However, in bat macrophages, this antiviral, proinflammatory response was balanced by a sustained high-level transcription of the anti-inflammatory cytokine Il-10, which was not observed in mouse, potentially resulting from adaptive regulation in bats. Additionally, phylogenomic selection tests across the basal divergences in mammals (n = 39) uncovered bat-specific adaptations in six genes involved in antiviral and proinflammatory signalling. Based on this pilot study, we put forward a hypothesis that bats may have evolved unique anti-inflammatory responses to neutralize proinflammatory stimuli resulting from flight. This in turn may drive their extraordinary longevity and viral tolerance by limiting inflammation driven ageing and infection-induced immunopathology. Further data from other individuals and bat species are required to advance this intriguing hypothesis.
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Vol. 19 • No. 2