RNAi is considered a major antiviral defense mechanism in insects, but its relative importance as compared to other antiviral pathways has not been evaluated comprehensively. Here, it is attempted to give an overview of the antiviral defense mechanisms in Drosophila
that involve both RNAi and non-RNAi. While RNAi is considered important in most viral infections, many other pathways can exist that confer antiviral resistance. It is noted that very few direct recognition mechanisms of virus infections have been identified in Drosophila
and that the activation of immune pathways may be accomplished indirectly through cell damage incurred by viral replication. In several cases, protection against viral infection can be obtained in RNAi mutants by non-RNAi mechanisms, confirming the variability of the RNAi defense mechanism according to the type of infection and the physiological status of the host. This analysis is aimed at more systematically investigating the relative contribution of RNAi in the antiviral response and more specifically, to ask whether RNAi efficiency is affected when other defense mechanisms predominate. While Drosophila
can function as a useful model, this issue may be more critical for economically important insects that are either controlled (agricultural pests and vectors of diseases) or protected from parasite infection (beneficial insects as bees) by RNAi products.
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