Forward genetics is an experimental approach in which gene mapping and positional cloning are used to elucidate the molecular mechanisms underlying phenotypic differences between two individuals for a given trait. This strategy has been highly successful for the study of inbred mouse strains that show differences in innate susceptibility to bacterial, parasitic, fungal, and viral infections. Over the past 20 years, these studies have led to the identification of a number of cell populations and critical biochemical pathways and proteins that are essential for the early detection of and response to invading pathogens. Strikingly, the macrophage is the point of convergence for many of these genetic studies. This has led to the identification of diverse pathways involved in extracellular and intracellular pathogen recognition, modification of the properties and content of phagosomes, transcriptional response, and signal transduction for activation of adaptive immune mechanisms. In models of viral infections, elegant genetic studies highlighted the pivotal role of natural killer cells in the detection and destruction of infected cells.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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