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J Biol Chem. 2004 May 14;279(20):21121-7. Epub 2004 Feb 25.

Differential activation of the NF-kappaB-like factors Relish and Dif in Drosophila melanogaster by fungi and Gram-positive bacteria.

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Department of Zoology, Oregon State University, 220 Nash Hall, Corvallis, OR 97331, USA.


The current model of immune activation in Drosophila melanogaster suggests that fungi and Gram-positive (G(+)) bacteria activate the Toll/Dif pathway and that Gram-negative (G(-)) bacteria activate the Imd/Relish pathway. To test this model, we examined the response of Relish and Dif (Dorsal-related immunity factor) mutants to challenge by various fungi and G(+) and G(-) bacteria. In Relish mutants, the Cecropin A gene was induced by the G(+) bacteria Micrococcus luteus and Staphylococcus aureus, but not by other G(+) or G(-) bacteria. This Relish-independent Cecropin A induction was blocked in Dif/Relish double mutant flies. Induction of the Cecropin A1 gene by M. luteus required Relish, whereas induction of the Cecropin A2 gene required Dif. Intact peptidoglycan (PG) was necessary for this differential induction of Cecropin A. PG extracted from M. luteus induced Cecropin A in Relish mutants, whereas PGs from the G(+) bacteria Bacillus megaterium and Bacillus subtilis did not, suggesting that the Drosophila immune system can distinguish PGs from various G(+) bacteria. Various fungi stimulated antimicrobial peptides through at least two different pathways requiring Relish and/or Dif. Induction of Attacin A by Geotrichum candidum required Relish, whereas activation by Beauvaria bassiana required Dif, suggesting that the Drosophila immune system can distinguish between at least these two fungi. We conclude that the Drosophila immune system is more complex than the current model. We propose a new model to account for this immune system complexity, incorporating distinct pattern recognition receptors of the Drosophila immune system, which can distinguish between various fungi and G(+) bacteria, thereby leading to selective induction of antimicrobial peptides via differential activation of Relish and Dif.

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