PerspectiveDevelopmental Biology

Death to the losers

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Science  05 Dec 2014:
Vol. 346, Issue 6214, pp. 1181-1182
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa2345

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Summary

Insects use the innate immunity signaling pathways Toll and IMD to fight infections by foreign pathogens, bacteria, or fungi (1). These pathways induce the expression of powerful antimicrobial-antifungal peptides (AMPs) that are released from the fat body cells. On page 1199 of this issue, Meyer et al. (2) report that fruit flies make use of components of both pathways to build another pathway that removes its own cells that are abnormal and may impair tissue fitness or compromise the survival of the organism. In contrast to the antimicrobial operation, the killing signal does not come from outside the tissue; it originates from interactions of the doomed cell with neighboring cells through the process of cell competition.