The route of infection can profoundly affect both the progression and outcome of disease. We investigated differences in Drosophila melanogaster defense against infection after bacterial inoculation into two sites--the abdomen and the thorax. Thorax inoculation results in increased bacterial proliferation and causes high mortality within the first few days of infection. In contrast, abdomen inoculation results in minimal mortality and lower bacterial loads than thorax inoculation. Inoculation into either site causes systemic infection. Differences in mortality and bacterial load are due to injury of the thorax and can be recapitulated by abdominal inoculation coupled with aseptic wounding of the thorax. This altered resistance appears to be independent of classical immune pathways and opens new avenues of research on the role of injury during defense against infection.
Insects are a powerful tool for discovering and then dissecting interesting new immunology. Recent insect research has made productive forays into non-classical immune areas including tolerance, immune priming (trained immunity), and environmental effects on immunity. Environments which affect immunity not only include diet and metabolism, but also social interactions and the animals microbiota. We argue that every process that affects immunity should be considered as part of the immune response and that it is the broad phenomena discovered in insects that will be translated to other organisms rather than fine mechanistic details.
Immunity and metabolism are intimately linked; manipulating metabolism, either through diet or genetics, has the power to alter survival during infection. However, despite metabolisms powerful ability to alter the course of infections, little is known about what being "sick" means metabolically. Here we describe the metabolic changes occurring in a model system when Listeria monocytogenes causes a lethal infection in Drosophila melanogaster. L. monocytogenes infection alters energy metabolism; the flies gradually lose both of their energy stores, triglycerides and glycogen, and show decreases in both intermediate metabolites and enzyme message for the two main energy pathways, beta-oxidation and glycolysis. L. monocytogenes infection also causes enzymatic reduction in the anti-oxidant uric acid, and knocking out the enzyme uric oxidase has a complicated effect on immunity. Free amino acid levels also change during infection, including a drop in tyrosine levels which may be due to robust L. monocytogenes induced melanization.
Health is a multidimensional landscape. If we just consider the host, there are many outputs that interest us: evolutionary fitness determining parameters like fecundity, survival and pathogen clearance as well as medically important health parameters like sleep, energy stores and appetite. Hosts use a variety of effector pathways to fight infections and these effectors are brought to bear differentially. Each pathogen causes a different disease as they have distinct virulence factors and niches; they each warp the health landscape in unique ways. Therefore, mutations affecting immunity can have complex phenotypes and distinct effects on each pathogen. Here we describe how two components of the flys immune response, melanization and phagocytosis, contribute to the health landscape generated by the transcription factor ets21c (CG2914) and its putative effector, the signaling molecule wntD (CG8458). To probe the landscape, we infect with two pathogens: Listeria monocytogenes, which primarily lives intracellularly, and Streptococcus pneumoniae, which is an extracellular pathogen. Using the diversity of phenotypes generated by these mutants, we propose that survival during a L. monocytogenes infection is mediated by a combination of two host mechanisms: phagocytic activity and melanization; while survival during a S. pneumoniae infection is determined by phagocytic activity. In addition, increased phagocytic activity is beneficial during S. pneumoniae infection but detrimental during L. monocytogenes infection, demonstrating an inherent trade-off in the immune response.
Studies of infection in Drosophila melanogaster provide insight into both mechanisms of host resistance and tolerance of pathogens. However, research into the pathways involved in these processes has been limited by the relatively few metrics that can be used to measure sickness and health throughout the course of infection. Here we report measurements of infection-related declines in flies performance on two different behavioral assays. D. melanogaster are slower to recover from a chill-induced coma during infection with either Listeria monocytogenes or Streptococcus pneumoniae. L. monocytogenes infection also impacts flies performance during a negative geotaxis assay, revealing a decline in their rate of climbing as part of their innate escape response after startle. In addition to providing new measures for assessing health, these assays also suggest pathological consequences of and metabolic shifts that may occur over the course of an infection.
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