Temporal specificity and heterogeneity of Drosophila immune cells

EMBO J. 2020 Jun 17;39(12):e104486. doi: 10.15252/embj.2020104486. Epub 2020 Mar 12.


Immune cells provide defense against non-self and have recently been shown to also play key roles in diverse processes such as development, metabolism, and tumor progression. The heterogeneity of Drosophila immune cells (hemocytes) remains an open question. Using bulk RNA sequencing, we find that the hemocytes display distinct features in the embryo, a closed and rapidly developing system, compared to the larva, which is exposed to environmental and metabolic challenges. Through single-cell RNA sequencing, we identify fourteen hemocyte clusters present in unchallenged larvae and associated with distinct processes, e.g., proliferation, phagocytosis, metabolic homeostasis, and humoral response. Finally, we characterize the changes occurring in the hemocyte clusters upon wasp infestation, which triggers the differentiation of a novel hemocyte type, the lamellocyte. This first molecular atlas of hemocytes provides insights and paves the way to study the biology of the Drosophila immune cells in physiological and pathological conditions.

Keywords: Drosophila melanogaster; immune cells; single-cell RNA-seq; wasp infestation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drosophila Proteins / genetics
  • Drosophila Proteins / immunology*
  • Drosophila melanogaster
  • Hemocytes / immunology*
  • Larva / genetics
  • Larva / immunology


  • Drosophila Proteins