The fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster has been a favored tool for genetic studies for over 100 years and has become an excellent model system to study development, signal transduction, cell biology, immunity and behavior. The relevance of Drosophila to humans is perhaps best illustrated by the fact that more than 75% of the genes identified in human diseases have counterparts in Drosophila. During the last decade, many fly models of neurodegenerative disorders have contributed to the identification of novel pathways mediating pathogenesis. However, the development of prion disease models in flies has been remarkably challenging. We recently reported a Drosophila model of sporadic prion pathology that shares relevant features with the typical disease in mammals. This new model provides the basis to explore relevant aspects of the biology of the prion protein, such as uncovering the genetic mechanisms regulating prion protein misfolding and prion-induced neurodegeneration, in a dynamic, genetically tractable in vivo system.
The magnitude and durability of immunity to human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) following natural infection is compromised by the presence of immune modulation genes that appear to promote evasion of host clearance mechanisms. Since immunity to HCMV offers limited protection, rational design of effective vaccines has been challenging. In this issue of the JCI, Slavuljica and colleagues employ techniques to genetically modify the highly related mouse CMV (MCMV), in the process generating a virus that was rapidly cleared by NK cells. The virus functioned as a safe and highly effective vaccine. Demonstration of the ability to engineer a safe and highly effective live virus vaccine in a relevant rodent model of CMV infection may open the door to clinical trials of safer and more immunogenic HCMV vaccines.
In this commentary, Brian P. Lazzaro and David S. Schneider examine the topic of the Genetics of Immunity as explored in this month's issues of GENETICS and G3: Genes|Genomes|Genetics. These inaugural articles are part of a joint Genetics of Immunity collection (ongoing) in the GSA journals.
Clinical manifestations of viral infections are highly variable, both in type and severity, among individual patients. Differences in host genetics and in dose and route of infection contribute to this variability but do not fully explain it. New studies now show that each subject's history of past infections individualizes the memory T cell pool. Private T cell receptor specificities of these preexisting memory T cell populations influence both disease severity and outcome of subsequent, unrelated virus infections.