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Summary

Drosophila blood cells or haemocytes comprise three cell lineages, plasmatocytes, crystal cells and lamellocytes, involved in immune functions such as phagocytosis, melanisation and encapsulation. Transcriptional profiling of activities of distinct haemocyte populations and from naïve or infected larvae, was performed to find genes contributing to haemocyte functions. Of the 13 000 genes represented on the microarray, over 2500 exhibited significantly enriched transcription in haemocytes. Among these were genes encoding integrins, peptidoglycan recognition proteins (PGRPs), scavenger receptors, lectins, cell adhesion molecules and serine proteases. One relevant outcome of this analysis was the gain of new insights into the lamellocyte encapsulation process. We showed that lamellocytes require βPS integrin for encapsulation and that they transcribe one prophenoloxidase gene enabling them to produce the enzyme necessary for melanisation of the capsule. A second compelling observation was that following infection, the gene encoding the cytokine Spätzle was uniquely upregulated in haemocytes and not the fat body. This shows that Drosophila haemocytes produce a signal molecule ready to be activated through cleavage after pathogen recognition, informing distant tissues of infection.