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Curr Opin Immunol. 1995 Feb;7(1):4-10.

Innate immunity of insects.

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Institut de Biologie Mol├ęculaire et Cellulaire, CNRS, Strasbourg, France.


Insects are particularly resistant to microorganisms. Their host-defense system relies on several innate reactions: upon injury, the immediate onset of two proteolytic cascades leading to localized blood clotting and to melanization, the latter process involving production of cytotoxic molecules (namely reactive oxygen intermediates); the phagocytosis of bacteria and the encapsulation of larger parasites by blood cells; the induced synthesis by the fat body of a battery of potent antimicrobial peptides/polypeptides which are secreted into the hemolymph where they act synergistically to kill the invading microorganisms. The insect host defence system shares many of the basic characteristics of the mammalian acute phase response, especially at the level of the coordinate control of gene expression, where similar cis-regulatory and inducible transactivators appear to play key functions. The powerful techniques developed to study the genetics of Drosophila provide a unique opportunity to dissect the development and differentiation of this primordial immune system and may contribute to our understanding of the innate immune response in higher organisms.

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