Functional regulatory divergence of the innate immune system in interspecific Drosophila hybrids.
ABSTRACT In order to investigate divergence of immune regulation among Drosophila species, we have engaged in a study of innate immune function in F1 hybrids of Drosophila melanogaster and D. simulans. If pathways have diverged between the species such that incompatibilities have arisen between interacting components of the immune network, we expect the hybrids to display dysregulation of immune genes. We have quantified gene induction in hybrid and parental flies in response to bacterial infection. These results show that although the hybrids do not suffer widespread immune breakdown, they show significantly different regulation of many immune genes relative to the parents. We examine this divergence in terms of additivity and expression differences among genes, observing distinct patterns of dysregulation among functional groups within the pathways of the innate immune system. The functional groups most sensitive to misexpression in the hybrids are the downstream components of the network, indicative of some propagation of dysregulation throughout the immune pathways. Interestingly, this dysregulation does not appear to associate with phenotypic differences in bacterial load after infection in hybrids, possibly highlighting some robustness of function of the innate immune response to perturbations like hybridization.