Eater, a transmembrane protein mediating phagocytosis of bacterial pathogens in Drosophila

Cell. 2005 Oct 21;123(2):335-46. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2005.08.034.


Phagocytosis is a complex, evolutionarily conserved process that plays a central role in host defense against infection. We have identified a predicted transmembrane protein, Eater, which is involved in phagocytosis in Drosophila. Transcriptional silencing of the eater gene in a macrophage cell line led to a significant reduction in the binding and internalization of bacteria. Moreover, the N terminus of the Eater protein mediated direct microbial binding which could be inhibited with scavenger receptor ligands, acetylated, and oxidized low-density lipoprotein. In vivo, eater expression was restricted to blood cells. Flies lacking the eater gene displayed normal responses in NF-kappaB-like Toll and IMD signaling pathways but showed impaired phagocytosis and decreased survival after bacterial infection. Our results suggest that Eater is a major phagocytic receptor for a broad range of bacterial pathogens in Drosophila and provide a powerful model to address the role of phagocytosis in vivo.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Motifs
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Bacterial Infections / prevention & control
  • Drosophila / cytology
  • Drosophila / embryology
  • Drosophila / genetics
  • Drosophila / microbiology*
  • Drosophila Proteins / genetics
  • Drosophila Proteins / metabolism
  • Drosophila Proteins / physiology*
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian
  • Escherichia coli / pathogenicity
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Frameshift Mutation
  • Genes, Insect*
  • Histidine / chemistry
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Insect Proteins / chemistry
  • Insect Proteins / genetics
  • Insect Proteins / metabolism
  • Insect Proteins / physiology*
  • Macrophages / metabolism
  • Membrane Proteins / chemistry
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Membrane Proteins / physiology*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Open Reading Frames
  • Phagocytosis*
  • RNA Interference
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / genetics
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / metabolism
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / physiology*
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • Serratia marcescens / pathogenicity


  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Insect Proteins
  • Membrane Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptors, Cell Surface
  • eater protein, Drosophila
  • Histidine