RNAi is an antiviral immune response against a dsRNA virus in Drosophila melanogaster

Cell Microbiol. 2006 May;8(5):880-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1462-5822.2006.00688.x.


Drosophila melanogaster has a robust and efficient innate immune system, which reacts to infections ranging from bacteria to fungi and, as discovered recently, viruses as well. The known Drosophila immune responses rely on humoral and cellular activities, similar to those found in the innate immune system of other animals. Recently, RNAi or 'RNA silencing' has arisen as a possible means by which Drosophila can react to a specific pathogens, transposons and retroviral elements, in a fashion similar to that of a traditional mammalian adaptive immune system instead of in a more generalized and genome encoded innate immune-based response. RNAi is a highly conserved regulation and defence mechanism, which suppresses gene expression via targeted RNA degradation directed by either exogenous dsRNA (cleaved into siRNAs) or endogenous miRNAs. In plants, RNAi has been found to act as an antiviral immune response system. Here we show that RNAi is an antiviral response used by Drosophila to combat infection by Drosophila X Virus, a birnavirus, as well. Additionally, we identify multiple core RNAi pathway genes, including piwi, vasa intronic gene (vig), aubergine (aub), armitage (armi), Rm62, r2d2 and Argonaute2 (AGO2) as having vital roles in this response in whole organisms. Our findings establish Drosophila as an ideal model for the study of antiviral RNAi responses in animals.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Birnaviridae / physiology
  • Drosophila Proteins / genetics
  • Drosophila Proteins / physiology
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics
  • Drosophila melanogaster / immunology*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / virology
  • Insect Viruses / genetics
  • Insect Viruses / physiology*
  • Mutation
  • RNA Interference*
  • RNA Viruses / genetics
  • RNA Viruses / physiology*
  • RNA, Double-Stranded / genetics


  • Drosophila Proteins
  • RNA, Double-Stranded