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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2000 Sep 12;97(19):10520-5.

Toll-related receptors and the control of antimicrobial peptide expression in Drosophila.

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UPR9022 du Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Institut de Biologie Moléculaire et Cellulaire, F-67084 Strasbourg, France.


Insects defend themselves against infectious microorganisms by synthesizing potent antimicrobial peptides. Drosophila has appeared in recent years as a favorable model to study this innate host defense. A genetic analysis of the regulation of the antifungal peptide drosomycin has demonstrated a key role for the transmembrane receptor Toll, which prompted the search for mammalian homologs. Two of these, Toll-like receptor (TLR)2 and TLR4, recently were shown to play a critical role in innate immunity against bacteria. Here we describe six additional Toll-related genes (Toll-3 to Toll-8) in Drosophila in addition to 18-wheeler. Two of these genes, Toll-3 and Toll-4, are expressed at a low level. Toll-6, -7, and -8, on the other hand, are expressed at high levels during embryogenesis and molting, suggesting that, like Toll and 18w, they perform developmental functions. Finally, Toll-5 is expressed only in larvae and adults. By using chimeric constructs, we have tested the capacity of the signaling Toll/IL-1R homology domains of these receptors to activate antimicrobial peptide promoters and found that only Toll and Toll-5 can activate the drosomycin promoter in transfected cells, thus demonstrating specificity at the level of the Toll/IL-1R homology domain. In contrast, none of these constructs activated antibacterial peptide promoters, suggesting that Toll-related receptors are not involved in the regulation of antibacterial peptide expression. This result was independently confirmed by the demonstration that a dominant-negative version of the kinase Pelle can block induction of drosomycin by the cytokine Spaetzle, but does not affect induction of the antibacterial peptide attacin by lipopolysaccharide.

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