Forschungszentrum Borstel
Forschungszentrum Borstel

Priority Research Area Asthma and Allergy

Invertebrate Models


Neuronal and endocrine transmitters modulate a variety of physiological functions including the immune system. Stress has been identified as a central factor influencing these highly complex interrelationships, which may influence in long-term the initiation, progression, and aggravation of chronic inflammatory diseases in humans such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and bronchial asthma.

In humans, extreme or repeated stress markedly affects these immune inflammatory disorders by activating the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis as well as the sympathetic-adrenal-medullary system. The latter in particular is responsible for the synthesis and secretion of catecholamines (adrenaline, norepinephrine) upon excitability, which in turn orchestrates the production and secretion of proinflammatory mediators through immune-competent cells of the innate immune system.

Since the neuroendocrine as well as the immune system of vertebrates are very complex biological systems, the interactions of the neuroendocrine, the respiratory and innate immune systems are very difficult to elucidate. In this context, the apparent simple fruit or vinegar fly Drosophila melanogaster turns out as an informative model since homologous structures to the vertebrate neuroendocrine as well as innate immune system exist and its genome largely lacks genetic redundancy.

Our research on Drosophila aims at elucidating the following aspects:

In the attempt to clarify the mechanisms at the molecular, cellular, and organismal level, we use techniques from cell and molecular biology, immunohistology and particularly from Drosophila-genetics. These genetic tools enable us to generate quite easily a plethora of transgenic strains to carry out comprehensive functional analyses.