Senescence of the cellular immune response in Drosophila melanogaster



Mackenzie DK, Bussiere L & Tinsley MC (2011) Senescence of the cellular immune response in Drosophila melanogaster. Experimental Gerontology, 46 (11), pp. 853-859.;

Immune system effectiveness generally declines as animals age, compromising disease resistance. In Drosophila, expression of a variety of immune-related genes elevates during ageing; however how this is linked to increasing pathogen susceptibility in older flies has remained unclear. We investigated whether changes in the Drosophila cellular immune response might contribute to immunosenescence. Experiments studied fly cohorts of different ages and compared the numbers and activity of the circulating haemocytes involved in pathogen defence. In female wildtype Samarkand and Oregon R flies the haemocyte population fell by 31.8% and 10.2% respectively during the first four weeks of adulthood. Interestingly we detected no such decline in male flies. The impact of ageing on the phagocytic activity of haemocytes was investigated by injecting flies with fluorescently labelled microbes or latex beads and assessing the ability of haemocytes to engulf them. For all immune challenges the proportion of actively phagocytosing haemocytes decreased as flies aged. Whilst 24.3% ± 1.15% of haemocytes in one-week-old flies phagocytosed Escherichia coli bacteria or Beauveria bassiana fungal spores, this decreased to 16.7% ± 0.99% in four-week-old flies. This clear senescence of the Drosophila cellular immune response may underpin increased disease susceptibility in older flies.

Ageing; immunosenescence; phagocytosis; haemocytes; immunity; Drosophila; Host-virus relationships; Insect populations; Immune system Aging

Experimental Gerontology: Volume 46, Issue 11

Publication date30/11/2011
Date accepted by journal01/01/1990
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Professor Matthew Tinsley

Professor Matthew Tinsley

Professor, Biological and Environmental Sciences