Host-Pathogen Interactions

Nematodes Behaving Badly

Science Signaling  20 Jan 2009:
Vol. 2, Issue 54, pp. ec25
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.254ec25

Pathogenic and commensal microorganisms can trigger immune responses and control host behavior, revealing complex communication between host and microbe. Natural variation in pathogen susceptibility between different strains of the nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans has been linked to a polymorphism in the npr-1 gene, which encodes a homolog of the mammalian neuropeptide Y receptor. Reddy et al. studied the mechanism of NPR-1–mediated pathogen susceptibility and found that behavioral changes in the nematodes in response to altered oxygen levels caused by the presence of bacteria resulted in an increased exposure to pathogen, thus causing increased sensitivity. These data underscore the important contribution of behavioral avoidance to nematode survival in the presence of pathogenic bacteria.

K. C. Reddy, E. C. Andersen, L. Kruglyak, D. H. Kim, A polymorphism in npr-1 is a behavioral determinant of pathogen susceptibility in C. elegans. Science 323, 382–384 (2009). [Abstract] [Full Text]