A novel rel family member, Gambif1 (gambiae immune factor 1), has been cloned from the human malaria vector, Anopheles gambiae, and shown to be most similar to Drosophila Dorsal and Dif. Gambif1 protein is translocated to the nucleus in fat body cells in response to bacterial challenge, although the mRNA is present at low levels at all developmental stages and is not induced by infection. DNA binding activity to the kappaB-like sites in the A.gambiae Defensin and the Drosophila Diptericin and Cecropin promoters is also induced in larval nuclear extracts following infection. Gambif1 has the ability to bind to kappaB-like sites in vitro. Co-transfection assays in Drosophila mbn-2 cells show that Gambif1 can activate transcription by interacting with the Drosophila Diptericin regulatory elements, but is not functionally equivalent to Dorsal in this assay. Gambif1 protein translocation to the nucleus and the appearance of kappaB-like DNA binding activity can serve as molecular markers of activation of the immune system and open up the possibility of studying the role of defence reactions in determining mosquito susceptibility/refractoriness to malaria infection.