A novel system for the launch of alphavirus RNA synthesis reveals a role for the Imd pathway in arthropod antiviral response

PLoS Pathog. 2009 Sep;5(9):e1000582. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1000582. Epub 2009 Sep 18.


Alphaviruses are RNA viruses transmitted between vertebrate hosts by arthropod vectors, primarily mosquitoes. How arthropods counteract alphaviruses or viruses per se is not very well understood. Drosophila melanogaster is a powerful model system for studying innate immunity against bacterial and fungal infections. In this study we report the use of a novel system to analyze replication of Sindbis virus (type species of the alphavirus genus) RNA following expression of a Sindbis virus replicon RNA from the fly genome. We demonstrate deficits in the immune deficiency (Imd) pathway enhance viral replication while mutations in the Toll pathway fail to affect replication. Similar results were observed with intrathoracic injections of whole virus and confirmed in cultured mosquito cells. These findings show that the Imd pathway mediates an antiviral response to Sindbis virus replication. To our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of an antiviral role for the Imd pathway in insects.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line
  • Disease Vectors
  • Drosophila Proteins / physiology*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / virology
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions*
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Insect Viruses / physiology
  • Mutation
  • Organisms, Genetically Modified
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • RNA, Viral / biosynthesis*
  • Sindbis Virus / physiology*
  • Virus Replication / physiology*


  • Drosophila Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA, Viral
  • imd protein, Drosophila