CORDIS - EU research results

Investigating susceptibility to trypanosomatid parasites using Drosophila melanogaster as a model

Project description

Drosophila as a model for studying vector-borne diseases

Host-parasite interactions play an important role in shaping wild and domestic animal populations that, in turn, influence many aspects of human life, such as agriculture, epidemiology and conservation. The EU-funded FlyTryp project will employ the fruit-fly Drosophila melanogaster as a model organism to investigate its relationship with its naturally occurring trypanosomatid parasite. Researchers will exploit the available molecular and genomic information on Drosophila to investigate fly susceptibility to parasite infection at the molecular and genetic level. Results are expected to reveal functional pathways that make certain flies more susceptible to infection and shed light on different aspects of insect immunity, ecology and evolution of the host-parasite interaction. The established Drosophila-trypanosomatid system can serve as a functional model for other insect-parasite systems such as insect-vectored diseases, and economically relevant species of Diptera.


One of the specific United Nations Sustainable Development goals is to end epidemics of neglected tropical diseases by year 2030. Some of the most devastating of these diseases are caused by trypanosomatid parasites that are transmitted to humans via the bites of infected insects from the order Diptera (Flies). While most natural fly vectors pose a challenge to study under laboratory conditions, Drosophila melanogaster, with its well-established molecular, genetic and genomic toolkit and a vast amount of prior knowledge of its biology, is a proven model for experimental studies. Because D. melanogaster is host to several natural parasites that belong to the trypanosomatid group, it can also serve as a model for studying fly-parasite interactions. In this project, we propose to take advantage of the Drosophila melanogaster Genetic Reference Panel (DGRP) to investigate the genetic basis of fly susceptibility to trypanosomatid infection. First, we will perform a genome-wide association study (GWAS) for natural susceptibility to trypanosomatid parasite using a well-developed DGRP mapping resource to map genetic variation in susceptibility. Further, we will also test for differences in gene expression associated with infection susceptibility, using RNA sequencing, and validate the candidate genes identified with GWAS and RNA sequencing. Together, along with the well-annotated Drosophila genome, these data will reveal functional pathways affecting susceptibility to trypanosomatid infection. The established Drosophila-trypanosomatid system can serve as a functional model for insect-vectored diseases in medically and economically relevant species of Diptera.


Net EU contribution
€ 224 933,76
L69 7ZX Liverpool
United Kingdom

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North West (England) Merseyside Liverpool
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 224 933,76