Genetics of nematode immunity and development
Co-workers: Dr Maria Gravato-Nobre Dr Delia O’Rourke Dr Laura Clark Mr Dave Stroud
The nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans provides a major model system for examining many different biological problems. Our research makes use of C. elegans for investigations into genetics, immunity and development, with particular reference to nematode-bacterial interactions and innate immunity. Innate immunity provides the first line of defence against pathogens and depends on conserved signalling pathways, which also play important roles in development. We wish to understand both the immune and the developmental aspects of these pathways. Most of our current work is directed at understanding how C. elegans detects and defends itself against pathogenic or toxic bacteria, and examining its interaction with nematode-specific pathogens (Microbacterium nematophilum, Leucobacter species), as well as broad-spectrum pathogens such as Staphyloccus aureus.
Immune responses to infection result in the production of candidate antibacterial factors, which we have identified by means of microarray analysis and are now studying in greater detail. Investigation of bacterial infection mechanisms have led us to explore the complex genetics and biochemistry of the nematode cuticle and surface coat. These outer layers determine sensitivity to many pathogens and drugs, and affect other biological properties such as morphogenesis, biofilm formation,locomotion and mate recognition.
We are also studying behavioural responses to pathogens, and investigating the molecular biology and microbiology of novel bacterial pathogens of C. elegans that we have discovered, which may have potential as biocontrol agents.
- Hodgkin J, Felix MA, Clark LC, Stroud D, Gravato-Nobre MJ (2013) Two Leucobacter strains exert complementary virulence on Caenorhabditis including death by worm-star formation. Current Biology 23: 2157-2161.
- Gravato-Nobre MJ, Stroud D, O'Rourke D, Darby C, Hodgkin J (2011) Glycosylation genes expressed in seam cells determine complex surface properties and bacterial adhesion in the cuticle of Caenorhabditis elegans. Genetics 187: 141-155.
- Nicholas HR, Hodgkin J (2009) The C. elegans Hox gene egl-5 is required for correct development of the hermaphrodite hindgut and for the response to rectal infection by Microbacterium nematophilum. Developmental Biology 329: 16-24
- Partridge FA, Tearle AW, Gravato-Nobre MJ, Schafer WR, Hodgkin J (2008) The C. elegans glycosyltransferase BUS-8 has two distinct and essential roles in epidermal morphogenesis. Developmental Biology 317: 549-559
- O’Rourke D, Baban D, Demidova M, Mott R, Hodgkin J (2006) Genomic clusters, putative pathogen recognition molecules and antimicrobial genes are induced by infection of C. elegans with M. nematophilum. Genome Research 16: 1005-1016
Figure 1: Worm tail with infecting bacteria
Figure 2: Expression of ilys genes in worm pharynx
Figure 3: Cell junctions in mutant worm embryo
Graduate Student and Postdoctoral Positions: Enquiries with CV welcome