A directed screen for genes involved in Drosophila blood cell activation

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2004 Sep 28;101(39):14192-7. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0403789101. Epub 2004 Sep 20.


An attack by a parasitic wasp activates a vigorous cellular immune response in Drosophila larvae. This response is manifested by an increased number of circulating cells, the hemocytes, and by the appearance of a specialized class of hemocyte, the lamellocytes, which participate in the encapsulation and killing of the parasite. To study the molecular mechanisms of this response, we have overexpressed different genes in the hemocytes, by using the GAL4-upstream activating sequence system and a hemocyte-specific Hemese-GAL4 driver. Multiple transgenes were tested, representing several important signaling pathways. We found that the proliferation response and the activation of lamellocyte formation are independent phenomena. A drastic increase in the number of circulating hemocytes is caused by receptor tyrosine kinases, such as Egfr, Pvr, and Alk, as well as by the downstream signaling components Ras85D and pointed, supporting the notion that the Ras-mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway regulates hemocyte numbers. In the case of Pvr and Alk, this phenotype also is accompanied by lamellocyte formation. By contrast, constitutively active hopscotch and hemipterous give massive activation of lamellocyte formation with little or no increase in total hemocyte numbers. This finding indicates that both the Jak/Stat and the Jun kinase pathways affect lamellocyte formation. Still other signals, mediated by aop(ACT), Toll(10b), and Rac1 expression, cause a simultaneous increase in lamellocyte and total cell numbers, and the same effect is seen when WNT signaling is suppressed. We conclude that the activation of a cellular response is complex and affected by multiple signaling pathways.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drosophila / genetics*
  • Drosophila / immunology*
  • Drosophila / parasitology
  • Drosophila Proteins / genetics
  • Drosophila Proteins / metabolism
  • Female
  • Gene Expression
  • Hemocytes / enzymology
  • Hemocytes / immunology
  • Hemocytes / parasitology
  • Hemocytes / physiology*
  • Larva / immunology
  • Larva / metabolism
  • Larva / parasitology
  • Male
  • Phenotype
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / metabolism
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction
  • Transgenes / genetics*
  • Wasps / immunology
  • beta-Galactosidase / genetics
  • ras Proteins / metabolism


  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases
  • beta-Galactosidase
  • Ras85D protein, Drosophila
  • ras Proteins