Two proteases defining a melanization cascade in the immune system of Drosophila.
The melanization reaction is used as an immune mechanism in arthropods to encapsulate and kill microbial pathogens. In Drosophila, the serpin Spn27A regulates melanization apparently by inhibiting the protease that activates phenoloxidase, the key enzyme in melanin synthesis. Here, we have described the genetic characterization of two immune inducible serine proteases, MP1 and MP2, which act in a melanization cascade regulated by Spn27A. MP1 is required to activate melanization in response to both bacterial and fungal infection, whereas MP2 is mainly involved during fungal infection. Pathogenic bacteria and fungi may therefore trigger two different melanization cascades that use MP1 as a common downstream protease to activate phenoloxidase. We have also shown that the melanization reaction activated by MP1 and MP2 plays an important role in augmenting the effectiveness of other immune reactions, thereby promoting resistance of Drosophila to microbial infection.