Drosophila calcineurin promotes induction of innate immune responses

Curr Biol. 2007 Dec 4;17(23):2087-93. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2007.11.001.


The sophisticated adaptive immune system of vertebrates overlies an ancient set of innate immune-response pathways, which have been genetically dissected in Drosophila. Although conserved regulatory pathways have been defined, calcineurin, a Ca(2+)-dependent phosphatase, has not been previously implicated in Drosophila immunity. Calcineurin activates mammalian immune responses by activating the nuclear translocation of the vertebrate-specific transcription factors NFAT1-4. In Drosophila, infection with gram-negative bacteria promotes the activation of the Relish transcription factor through the Imd pathway. The activity of this pathway in the larva is modulated by nitric oxide (NO). Here, we show that the input by NO is mediated by calcineurin. Pharmacological inhibition of calcineurin suppressed the Relish-dependent gene expression that occurs in response to gram-negative bacteria or NO. One of the three calcineurin genes in Drosophila, CanA1, mediated NO-induced nuclear translocation of Relish in a cell-culture assay. A CanA1 RNA interference (RNAi) transgene suppressed immune induction in larvae upon infection or upon treatment with NO donors, whereas a gain-of-function CanA1 transgene activated immune responses in untreated larvae. Interestingly, CanA1 RNAi in hemocytes but not the fat body was sufficient to block immune induction in the fat body. Thus, CanA1 provides an additional input into Relish-promoted immune responses and functions in hemocytes to promote a tissue-to-tissue signaling cascade required for robust immune response.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcineurin / genetics
  • Calcineurin / metabolism
  • Calcineurin / pharmacology*
  • Drosophila / growth & development
  • Drosophila / immunology*
  • Drosophila / metabolism
  • Drosophila Proteins / genetics
  • Drosophila Proteins / metabolism*
  • Drosophila Proteins / pharmacology
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Hemocytes
  • Immunity, Innate / drug effects*
  • Nitric Oxide / metabolism
  • RNA Interference
  • Signal Transduction
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism


  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Rel protein, Drosophila
  • Transcription Factors
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Calcineurin