Introduction

Insects are exposed to a multitude of pathogens in their natural environment. Therefore, they have developed sophisticated mechanisms to recognize and respond to infectious microorganisms. Even without adaptive immunity, insects have very effective immune responses to a wide range of pathogens (both microbial and larger). Moreover, the insect immune response has proven to be a useful and highly conserved model system for the study of innate immunity in general. In particular, the genetic, genomic, and molecular tools available for studying the immune response in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster make this a favored model system (Brennan and Anderson 2004; Cherry and Silverman 2006; Hultmark 2003; Lemaitre and Hoffmann 2007). Drosophila relies on several distinct effector mechanisms for immune protection, including clotting, melanization and encapsulation, cell-based phagocytosis, and the inducible production of a battery of antimicrobial peptides. This antimicrobial peptide response is critical for protection from experimental and natural infections. In this chapter, we focus on the inducible and systemic production of antimicrobial peptides. In another chapter, Louisa Wu and colleagues highlight the cellular immune response of Drosophila.

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