Characterization of mediators of microbial virulence and innate immunity using the Caenorhabditis elegans host–pathogen model


*For correspondence. E-mail mwtan@; Tel. (+1) 650 736 1688; Fax (+1) 650 725 1534


The soil-borne nematode, Caenorhabditis elegans, is emerging as a versatile model in which to study host–pathogen interactions. The worm model has shown to be particularly effective in elucidating both microbial and animal genes involved in toxin-mediated killing. In addition, recent work on worm infection by a variety of bacterial pathogens has shown that a number of virulence regulatory genes mediate worm susceptibility. Many of these regulatory genes, including the PhoP/Q two-component regulators in Salmonella and LasR in Pseudomonas aeruginosa, have also been implicated in mammalian models suggesting that findings in the worm model will be relevant to other systems. In keeping with this concept, experiments aimed at identifying host innate immunity genes have also implicated pathways that have been suggested to play a role in plants and animals, such as the p38 MAP kinase pathway. Despite rapid forward progress using this model, much work remains to be done including the design of more sensitive methods to find effector molecules and further characterization of the exact interaction between invading pathogens and C. elegans’ cellular components.