Symbiotic bacteria assist in maintaining homeostasis of the animal immune system. However, the molecular mechanisms that underlie symbiont-mediated host immunity are largely unknown. Tsetse flies (Glossina spp.) house maternally transmitted symbionts that regulate the development and function of their host's immune system. Herein we demonstrate that the obligate mutualist, Wigglesworthia, up-regulates expression of odorant binding protein six in the gut of intrauterine tsetse larvae. This process is necessary and sufficient to induce systemic expression of the hematopoietic RUNX transcription factor lozenge and the subsequent production of crystal cells, which actuate the melanotic immune response in adult tsetse. Larval Drosophila's indigenous microbiota, which is acquired from the environment, regulates an orthologous hematopoietic pathway in their host. These findings provide insight into the molecular mechanisms that underlie enteric symbiont-stimulated systemic immune system development, and indicate that these processes are evolutionarily conserved despite the divergent nature of host-symbiont interactions in these model systems.
Keywords: D. melanogaster; crystal cell; developmental biology; hematopoiesis; immunology; odorant binding protein; stem cells; symbiont; tsetse fly.