Like all of us, the nematode worm, Caenorhabditis elegans, is susceptible to illness and infection caused by bacteria. And, like all of us, worms mount an immune defense against infection. Styer et al. now present data that suggest that the innate immune response of C. elegans requires expression of a G protein-coupled receptor, npr-1, in sensory neurons. The response also requires other signaling-related molecules, a cyclic GMP-gated ion channel and a soluble guanylate cyclase. The sensory neurons act to control the immune response throughout the worm. Thus, these neurons seem to control innate immunity in C. elegans by receiving signals from pathogens and then initiating an organism-wide immune response.
K. L. Styer, V. Singh, E. Macosko, S. E. Steele, C. I. Bargmann, A. Aballay, Innate immunity in Caenorhabditis elegans is regulated by neurons expressing NPR-1/GPCR. Science 322, 460-464 (2008). [Abstract] [Full Text]