Infection in insects stimulates a complex defensive response. Recognition of pathogens may be accomplished by plasma or hemocyte proteins that bind specifically to bacterial or fungal polysaccharides. Several morphologically distinct hemocyte cell types cooperate in the immune response. Hemocytes attach to invading organisms and then isolate them by phagocytosis, by trapping them in hemocyte aggregates called nodules, or by forming an organized multicellular capsule around large parasites. These responses are often accompanied by proteolytic activation of the phenoloxidase zymogen that is present in the hemolymph. A component of insect immune responses to bacteria is the synthesis by fat body and hemocytes of a variety of antibacterial proteins and peptides, which are secreted into the hemolymph. These molecules attack bacteria by several mechanisms. Inducible antifungal proteins have also been recently discovered in insect hemolymph. The promoters for several antibacterial protein genes in insects are regulated by transcription factors similar to those involved in mammalian acute phase responses.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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