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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Caenorhabditis elegans as a biomonitor for immunological stress in nematodes.

An experimental system has been developed using Caenorhabditis elegans (Secernentea: Rhabditida), to monitor immunological stress in nematodes. The transgenic C. elegans strain PC72 carries a lacZ reporter gene fused to a C. elegans hsp16-1 gene, which is inducible for beta-galactosidase activity at the heat stress temperature of 26 degrees C. The investigate the possibility of using PC72 to monitor immunological stress, its surface coat was targeted, to mimic immune attack, by raising immune sera against surface coat components selectively removed by the cationic detergent cetyltrimethylammoniunm bromide. Initially, a highly significant induction of beta-galactosidase activity was seen in PC72 incubated in either surface-reactive or naïve rabbit serum. Complement (C3) was detected over the entire surface of adult PC72 and was thought to be responsible for stress-induction with naïve sera. When the immunoglobulin (Ig)G fraction of naïve sera was used in isolation, no stress-induction was seen. In contrast, a two-fold increase in beta-galactosidase activity was seen in the presence of surface-reactive IgG (SR-IgG) which recognised surface components of between 6 and 40 kDa in western blot. The belief that surface reactive IgG could induce a stress response was reinforced by analysis of hsp-16 protein expression. Cationised ferritin was then used to assess whether stress-induction was truly a surface reactive event; binding of cationised ferritin to the nematode surface also resulted in two-fold induction of beta-galactosidase activity. To investigate the downstream biological effects of stress induction, worm growth and fecundity were measured in the presence of IgG preparations. A significant reduction was seen in both worm length and fecundity only when larvae were incubated in surface-reactive IgG, compared to both naïve IgG and K-medium controls. In conclusion, it would appear that C. elegans is a suitable model to monitor the induction of immunological stress at the level of the nematode surface coat. Given the ability of nematode surface antigens to protect the vaccinated host in animal model systems, and the close phylogenetic relationships which exist between C. elegans and nematodes of medical and veterinary importance, it is conceivable that the immunological targets in or on the surface of C. elegans warrant rapid identification.[1]


  1. Caenorhabditis elegans as a biomonitor for immunological stress in nematodes. Nowell, M.A., De Pomerai, D.I., Pritchard, D.I. Parasite Immunol. (1999) [Pubmed]
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