Many of the cellular mechanisms underlying host responses to pathogens have been well conserved during evolution. As a result, Drosophila can be used to deconstruct many of the key events in host-pathogen interactions by using a wealth of well-developed molecular and genetic tools. In this review, we aim to emphasize the great leverage provided by the suite of genomic and classical genetic approaches available in flies for decoding details of host-pathogen interactions; these findings can then be applied to studies in higher organisms. We first briefly summarize the general strategies by which Drosophila resists and responds to pathogens. We then focus on how recently developed genome-wide RNA interference (RNAi) screens conducted in cells and flies, combined with classical genetic methods, have provided molecular insight into host-pathogen interactions, covering examples of bacteria, fungi and viruses. Finally, we discuss novel strategies for how flies can be used as a tool to examine how specific isolated virulence factors act on an intact host.
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