To probe the defenses of innate immunity against pathogenic invaders, researchers have used CRISPR to delete genes in the fruit fly Drosophila that code for antimicrobial peptides, which can disrupt a pathogen’s function or damage its cell wall. To study the immune weapons at work inside living creatures, the researchers used CRISPR-Cas9 to edit the flies’ genomes and manipulate their production of 14 different peptides. 

With various combinations of gene edits, they produced flies having none, some, or all of the peptides. The researchers observed that the antimicrobial peptides seem to protect their flies against certain fungi and Gram-negative bacteria, and that peptides could work alone or in concert, researchers reported February 26 in eLife.

M.A. Hanson et al., “Synergy and remarkable specificity of antimicrobial peptides in vivo using a systematic knockout approach,” eLife, doi:10.7554/eLife.44341, 2019.

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