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Dis Model Mech. 2008 Sep-Oct;1(2-3):144-54; discussion 153. doi: 10.1242/dmm.000950. Epub 2008 Sep 18.

An innate immune response of blood cells to tumors and tissue damage in Drosophila.

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  • 1Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Department of Genetics, Yale University School of Medicine, 295 Congress Avenue, New Haven, CT 06519, USA.


Studies in mice and humans have demonstrated a role for the immune system in preventing the growth of tumors. Deciphering the mechanisms involved in the immune response to tumors is essential to our understanding of immune recognition and cancer progression. Here we report an innate immune response to tumors in Drosophila melanogaster. We found that circulating blood cells, termed hemocytes, adhere to tumors upon detection of basement membrane disruption, and subsequently counter their growth. Basement membrane components are remarkably conserved throughout the animal kingdom, providing a unique structure for the immune system to sense tissue integrity. Further, we show that tissue damage activates JNK signaling in both tumors and aseptic wounds, causing expression of JAK/STAT-activating cytokines. Cytokine secretion from the injured tissue is amplified into a systemic response through the induction of additional cytokine expression in the hemocytes and the fat body, resulting in hemocyte proliferation. Our findings reveal common mechanisms in the response to tumors and wounds in flies. A similar innate reaction may underlie the response to tumors and tissue damage in vertebrates and humans.

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