Genotype and gene expression associations with immune function in Drosophila

PLoS Genet. 2010 Jan;6(1):e1000797. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1000797. Epub 2010 Jan 8.


It is now well established that natural populations of Drosophila melanogaster harbor substantial genetic variation associated with physiological measures of immune function. In no case, however, have intermediate measures of immune function, such as transcriptional activity of immune-related genes, been tested as mediators of phenotypic variation in immunity. In this study, we measured bacterial load sustained after infection of D. melanogaster with Serratia marcescens, Providencia rettgeri, Enterococcus faecalis, and Lactococcus lactis in a panel of 94 third-chromosome substitution lines. We also measured transcriptional levels of 329 immune-related genes eight hours after infection with E. faecalis and S. marcescens in lines from the phenotypic tails of the test panel. We genotyped the substitution lines at 137 polymorphic markers distributed across 25 genes in order to test for statistical associations among genotype, bacterial load, and transcriptional dynamics. We find that genetic polymorphisms in the pathogen recognition genes (and particularly in PGRP-LC, GNBP1, and GNBP2) are most significantly associated with variation in bacterial load. We also find that overall transcriptional induction of effector proteins is a significant predictor of bacterial load after infection with E. faecalis, and that a marker upstream of the recognition gene PGRP-SD is statistically associated with variation in both bacterial load and transcriptional induction of effector proteins. These results show that polymorphism in genes near the top of the immune system signaling cascade can have a disproportionate effect on organismal phenotype due to the amplification of minor effects through the cascade.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteria / immunology
  • Bacterial Physiological Phenomena
  • Drosophila Proteins / genetics
  • Drosophila Proteins / immunology
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / immunology*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / microbiology
  • Gene Expression*
  • Genotype
  • Phenotype


  • Drosophila Proteins