Genomics of the immune response

So far we have discussed resistance traits and costs at the phenotypic level. To better understand the mechanisms of resistance and its costs, we can also investigate the genetic regulation of these traits and trade-offs. The molecular and genetic mechanisms underlying Drosophila immunity have been studied extensively. An important reason is that the signalling pathways and immunity genes in the Drosophila defence responses against bacteria, fungi, and viruses are highly conserved in vertebrates, making Drosophila an excellent model system for studying innate immune responses (Brennan and Anderson, 2004; Wang et al., 2006). Since the completion of the genomic sequencing of Drosophila in 2000, the application of several post-genomic techniques has contributed considerably to our insight into the genes associated with immunity and defence. Moreover, genomic tools make it possible to study whole genetic networks in parallel, and to search for indications of interactions between signalling pathways. The costs incurred by launching an immune response may be due to genetic interactions with other genes and pathways, where (the change of expression in) one gene can be responsible for a range of phenotypic effects. In this section, we summarize the advances that post-genomic tools have provided in Drosophila immunity, and the genetic interactions that likely reflect some of the associated costs.

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