Original Articles

Molecular and General Genetics MGG

, Volume 242, Issue 2, pp 152-162

The lysozyme locus in Drosophila melanogaster: an expanded gene family adapted for expression in the digestive tract

  • Sirlei DaffreAffiliated withDepartment of Molecular Biology, Stockholm University
  • , Per KylstenAffiliated withDepartment of Molecular Biology, Stockholm University
  • , Christos SamakovlisAffiliated withDepartment of Molecular Biology, Stockholm University
  • , Dan HultmarkAffiliated withDepartment of Molecular Biology, Stockholm University

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Abstract

Lysozyme has been studied in insects as part of the system of inducible antibacterial defence in the haemolymph. We recently found two Drosophila lysozyme genes that are constitutively expressed in the digestive tract, and are probably involved in the digestion of bacteria in the food. To obtain an overview of the lysozyme genes in this species and their possible roles in immunity and digestion, we have now characterized all six lysozyme genes in the cloned part of the lysozyme locus at 61F, and a seventh gene that maps to the same chromosomal location. The expression of the genes follows four different patterns: firstly, four closely related genes, LysB, C, D and E, are all strongly expressed in the midgut of larvae and adults; secondly, LysP is expressed in the adult salivary gland; thirdly, LysS is expressed mainly in the gastric caecae of larvae; and finally, LysX is primarily expressed in the metamorphosing midgut of late larvae and early pupae. The LysD-like genes and LysS are strongly repressed in artificially infected animals, possibly reflecting a malaise reaction in the digestive tract. None of the genes is expressed in the fat body or haemocytes. Thus rather than being a component of the haemolymph, the Drosophila lysozymes are found mainly in the digestive tract where they are expressed at a high level. Furthermore all genes, except LysP, encode acidic proteins, in contrast to the strongly basic “typical” lysozymes. This is highly reminiscent of the situation in ruminants, where the lysozymes have been recruited for the digestion of symbiotic bacteria in the stomach.

Key words

Antibacterial Digestive tract Drosophila Gene family Lysozyme