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The utilization of Caenorhabditis briggsae as a host model to study bacterial pathogenesis Price, Nancy Lee


Caenorhabditis elegans has now been established as a host model for studies of infectivity by bacterial pathogens including Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Salmonella typhimurium, Burkholderia pseudomallei, and Enterococcus faecalis. However, virulence determinants of bacterial pathogens are regulated by temperature and environmental conditions, thereby limiting the use of C. elegans which cannot survive in temperatures higher than 25°C. This study shows that the related species, C. briggsae survives better than C. elegans on bacterial culture media at higher temperatures and describes the effects on C. briggsae of mammalian enteric pathogens, primarily Yersinia enterocolitica. C. briggsae grown on Y. enterocolitica accumulated bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract of the worm, resulting in decreased life-span and progeny fitness in a depleted-calcium environment. The mechanisms of the interaction are as yet unknown as both virulent and avirulent strains of Y. enterocolitica displayed the similar results. Investigations were undertaken to examine whether the shortened life span could be attributed to starvation, toxicity, or possible infection. Starvation effects was determined not to be the sole cause of premature worm death as C. briggsae grown on Y. enterocolitica survived several days longer than starved worms. A bacterial mixing experiment using both Y. enterocolitica and E. coli OP50 shortened the worm life span compared to feeding on Y. enterocolitica alone, suggesting a possible toxic effect. However worms feeding on Y. enterocolitica and later shifted to E. coli OP50 resulted in reversion of the survival curve to that of worms feeding on E. coli OP50 alone, indicating that the detrimental effect of Y. enterocolitica was reversible. Fluorescent labeling of bacterial strains with a lacZ-GFP reporter gene demonstrated that Y. enterocolitica, but not E. coli OP50, is retained in the gut, a result which is compatible with a molecular interaction between Y. enterocolitica and nematode cellular components. These findings suggest that Y. enterocolitica may cause an infection within the nematode gastrointestinal tract and provide an assay for genetic dissection of the molecular basis of pathogenesis.

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