[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The discoveries of Orsay, Santeuil and Le Blanc viruses, three viruses infecting either Caenorhabditis elegans or its relative Caenorhabditis briggsae, enable the study of virus-host interactions using natural pathogens of these two well-established model organisms. We characterized the tissue tropism of infection in Caenorhabditis nematodes by these viruses. Using immunofluorescence assays targeting proteins from each of the viruses, and in situ hybridization, we demonstrate viral proteins and RNAs localize to intestinal cells in larval stage Caenorhabditis nematodes. Viral proteins were detected in one to six of the 20 intestinal cells present in Caenorhabditis nematodes. In Orsay virus-infected C. elegans, viral proteins were detected as early as 6h post-infection. The RNA-dependent RNA polymerase and capsid proteins of Orsay virus exhibited different subcellular localization patterns. Collectively, these observations provide the first experimental insights into viral protein expression in any nematode host, and broaden our understanding of viral infection in Caenorhabditis nematodes.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The rapid pace of species discovery outstrips the rate of species description in many taxa. This problem is especially acute for Caenorhabditis nematodes, where the naming of distinct species would greatly improve their visibility and usage for biological research, given the thousands of scientists studying Caenorhabditis. Species description and naming has been hampered in Caenorhabditis, in part due to the presence of morphologically cryptic species despite complete biological reproductive isolation and often enormous molecular divergence. With the aim of expediting species designations, here we propose and apply a revised framework for species diagnosis and description in this group. Our solution prioritizes reproductive isolation over traditional morphological characters as the key feature in delineating and diagnosing new species, reflecting both practical considerations and conceptual justifications. DNA sequence divergence criteria help prioritize crosses for establishing patterns of reproductive isolation among the many species of Caenorhabditis known to science, such as with the ribosomal internal transcribed spacer-2 (ITS2) DNA barcode. By adopting this approach, we provide new species name designations for 15 distinct biological species, thus increasing the number of named Caenorhabditis species in laboratory culture by nearly 3-fold. We anticipate that the improved accessibility of these species to the research community will expand the opportunities for study and accelerate our understanding of diverse biological phenomena.
PLoS ONE 01/2014; 9(4):e94723. · 3.53 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans has been much studied as a host for microbial infection. Some pathogens can infect its intestine [1, 2], while others attack via its external surface [1, 3-6]. Cultures of Caenorhabditis isolated from natural environments have yielded new nematode pathogens, such as microsporidia and viruses [7, 8]. We report here a novel mechanism for bacterial attack on worms, discovered during investigation of a diseased and coinfected natural isolate of Caenorhabditis from Cape Verde. Two related coryneform pathogens (genus Leucobacter) were obtained from this isolate, which had complementary effects on C. elegans and related nematodes. One pathogen, Verde1, was able to cause swimming worms to stick together irreversibly by their tails, leading to the rapid formation of aggregated "worm-stars." Adult worms trapped in these aggregates were immobilized and subsequently died, with concomitant growth of bacteria. Trapped larval worms were sometimes able to escape from worm-stars by undergoing autotomy, separating their bodies into two parts. The other pathogen, Verde2, killed worms after rectal invasion, in a more virulent version of a previously studied infection . Resistance to killing by Verde2, by means of alterations in host surface glycosylation, resulted in hypersensitivity to Verde1, revealing a trade-off in bacterial susceptibility. Conversely, a sublethal surface infection of worms with Verde1 conferred partial protection against Verde2. The formation of worm-stars by Verde1 occurred only when worms were swimming in liquid but provides a striking example of asymmetric warfare as well as a bacterial equivalent to the trapping strategies used by nematophagous fungi .
Current biology: CB 11/2013; 23(21):2157-2161. · 10.99 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Biological systems may perform reproducibly to generate invariant outcomes, despite external or internal noise. One example is the C. elegans vulva, in which the final cell fate pattern is remarkably robust. Although this system has been extensively studied and the molecular network underlying cell fate specification is well understood, very little is known in quantitative terms. Here, through pathway dosage modulation and single molecule fluorescence in situ hybridization, we show that the system can tolerate a 4-fold variation in genetic dose of the upstream signaling molecule LIN-3/epidermal growth factor (EGF) without phenotypic change in cell fate pattern. Furthermore, through tissue-specific dosage perturbations of the EGF and Notch pathways, we determine the first-appearing patterning errors. Finally, by combining different doses of both pathways, we explore how quantitative pathway interactions influence system behavior. Our results highlight the feasibility and significance of launching experimental studies of robustness and quantitative network analysis in genetically tractable, multicellular eukaryotes.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: In stark contrast to the wealth of detail about C. elegans developmental biology and molecular genetics, biologists lack basic data for understanding the abundance and distribution of Caenorhabditis species in natural areas that are unperturbed by human influence. METHODS: Here we report the analysis of dense sampling from a small, remote site in the Amazonian rain forest of the Nouragues Natural Reserve in French Guiana. RESULTS: Sampling of rotting fruits and flowers revealed proliferating populations of Caenorhabditis, with up to three different species co-occurring within a single substrate sample, indicating remarkable overlap of local microhabitats. We isolated six species, representing the highest local species richness for Caenorhabditis encountered to date, including both tropically cosmopolitan and geographically restricted species not previously isolated elsewhere. We also documented the structure of within-species molecular diversity at multiple spatial scales, focusing on 57 C. briggsae isolates from French Guiana. Two distinct genetic subgroups co-occur even within a single fruit. However, the structure of C. briggsae population genetic diversity in French Guiana does not result from strong local patterning but instead presents a microcosm of global patterns of differentiation. We further integrate our observations with new data from nearly 50 additional recently collected C. briggsae isolates from both tropical and temperate regions of the world to re-evaluate local and global patterns of intraspecific diversity, providing the most comprehensive analysis to date for C. briggsae population structure across multiple spatial scales. CONCLUSIONS: The abundance and species richness of Caenorhabditis nematodes is high in a Neotropical rainforest habitat that is subject to minimal human interference. Microhabitat preferences overlap for different local species, although global distributions include both cosmopolitan and geographically restricted groups. Local samples for the cosmopolitan C. briggsae mirror its pan-tropical patterns of intraspecific polymorphism. It remains an important challenge to decipher what drives Caenorhabditis distributions and diversity within and between species.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: RNA interference defends against viral infection in plant and animal cells. The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans and its natural pathogen, the positive-strand RNA virus Orsay, have recently emerged as a new animal model of host-virus interaction. Using a genome-wide association study in C. elegans wild populations and quantitative trait locus mapping, we identify a 159 base-pair deletion in the conserved drh-1 gene (encoding a RIG-I-like helicase) as a major determinant of viral sensitivity. We show that DRH-1 is required for the initiation of an antiviral RNAi pathway and the generation of virus-derived siRNAs (viRNAs). In mammals, RIG-I-domain containing proteins trigger an interferon-based innate immunity pathway in response to RNA virus infection. Our work in C. elegans demonstrates that the RIG-I domain has an ancient role in viral recognition. We propose that RIG-I acts as modular viral recognition factor that couples viral recognition to different effector pathways including RNAi and interferon responses. DOI:http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.00994.001.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Orsay virus and Santeuil virus, the first known viruses capable of naturally infecting the nematodes Caenorhabditis elegans and Caenorhabditis briggsae, respectively, were recently identified by high-throughput sequencing of wild Caenorhabditis strains. By similar analysis of another wild C. briggsae isolate, we have now discovered and sequenced the complete genome of a third novel virus, Le Blanc virus, that is distantly related to Orsay and Santeuil viruses. All three viruses are positive-sense RNA viruses with bipartite genomes that are most closely related to nodaviruses. Identification of a third virus capable of infecting Caenorhabditis nematodes enables comparative analysis of this clade of viruses and strengthens this model for investigating virus-host interactions.
Journal of Virology 11/2012; 86(21):11940. · 5.08 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Developmental systems can produce a variety of patterns and morphologies when the molecular and cellular activities within them are varied. With the advent of quantitative modeling, the range of phenotypic output of a developmental system can be assessed by exploring model parameter space. Here I review recent examples where developmental evolution is studied using quantitative models, which increasingly rely on empirically determined molecular signaling pathways and their crosstalk. Quantitative pathway evolution may result in dramatic morphological changes. Alternatively, in many developmental systems, the phenotypic output is robust to a range of parameter variation, and cryptic developmental evolution may occur without morphological change. Formalization and measurements of the relationship between genetic variation and parameter variation in developmental models remain in their infancy.
Current opinion in genetics & development 08/2012; · 8.99 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The spatial patterning of three cell fates in a row of competent cells is exemplified by vulva development in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. The intercellular signaling network that underlies fate specification is well understood, yet quantitative aspects remain to be elucidated. Quantitative models of the network allow us to test the effect of parameter variation on the cell fate pattern output. Among the parameter sets that allow us to reach the wild-type pattern, two general developmental patterning mechanisms of the three fates can be found: sequential inductions and morphogen-based induction, the former being more robust to parameter variation. Experimentally, the vulval cell fate pattern is robust to stochastic and environmental challenges, and minor variants can be detected. The exception is the fate of the anterior cell, P3.p, which is sensitive to stochastic variation and spontaneous mutation, and is also evolving the fastest. Other vulval precursor cell fates can be affected by mutation, yet little natural variation can be found, suggesting stabilizing selection. Despite this fate pattern conservation, different Caenorhabditis species respond differently to perturbations of the system. In the quantitative models, different parameter sets can reconstitute their response to perturbation, suggesting that network variation among Caenorhabditis species may be quantitative. Network rewiring likely occurred at longer evolutionary scales.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans is a major model organism in laboratory biology. Very little is known, however, about its ecology, including where it proliferates. In the past, C. elegans was mainly isolated from human-made compost heaps, where it was overwhelmingly found in the non-feeding dauer diapause stage.
C. elegans and C. briggsae were found in large, proliferating populations in rotting plant material (fruits and stems) in several locations in mainland France. Both species were found to co-occur in samples isolated from a given plant species. Population counts spanned a range from one to more than 10,000 Caenorhabditis individuals on a single fruit or stem. Some populations with an intermediate census size (10 to 1,000) contained no dauer larvae at all, whereas larger populations always included some larvae in the pre-dauer or dauer stages. We report on associated micro-organisms, including pathogens. We systematically sampled a spatio-temporally structured set of rotting apples in an apple orchard in Orsay over four years. C. elegans and C. briggsae were abundantly found every year, but their temporal distributions did not coincide. C. briggsae was found alone in summer, whereas both species co-occurred in early fall and C. elegans was found alone in late fall. Competition experiments in the laboratory at different temperatures show that C. briggsae out-competes C. elegans at high temperatures, whereas C. elegans out-competes C. briggsae at lower temperatures.
C. elegans and C. briggsae proliferate in the same rotting vegetal substrates. In contrast to previous surveys of populations in compost heaps, we found fully proliferating populations with no dauer larvae. The temporal sharing of the habitat by the two species coincides with their temperature preference in the laboratory, with C. briggsae populations growing faster than C. elegans at higher temperatures, and vice at lower temperatures.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The Caenorhabditis elegans vulva has served as a paradigm for how conserved developmental pathways, such as EGF-Ras-MAPK, Notch and Wnt signaling, participate in networks driving animal organogenesis. Here, we discuss an emerging direction in the field, which places vulva research in a quantitative and microevolutionary framework. The final vulval cell fate pattern is known to be robust to change, but only recently has the variation of vulval traits been measured under stochastic, environmental or genetic variation. Whereas the resulting cell fate pattern is invariant among rhabditid nematodes, recent studies indicate that the developmental system has accumulated cryptic variation, even among wild C. elegans isolates. Quantitative differences in the signaling network have emerged through experiments and modeling as the driving force behind cryptic variation in Caenorhabditis species. On a wider evolutionary scale, the establishment of new model species has informed about the presence of qualitative variation in vulval signaling pathways.
Trends in Genetics 02/2012; 28(4):185-95. · 9.77 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans is central to research in molecular, cell and developmental biology, but nearly all of this research has been conducted on a single strain of C. elegans. Little is known about the population genomic and evolutionary history of this species. We characterized C. elegans genetic variation using high-throughput selective sequencing of a worldwide collection of 200 wild strains and identified 41,188 SNPs. Notably, C. elegans genome variation is dominated by a set of commonly shared haplotypes on four of its six chromosomes, each spanning many megabases. Population genetic modeling showed that this pattern was generated by chromosome-scale selective sweeps that have reduced variation worldwide; at least one of these sweeps probably occurred in the last few hundred years. These sweeps, which we hypothesize to be a result of human activity, have drastically reshaped the global C. elegans population in the recent past.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans is able to take up external double-stranded RNAs (dsRNAs) and mount an RNA interference response, leading to the inactivation of specific gene expression. The uptake of ingested dsRNAs into intestinal cells has been shown to require the SID-2 transmembrane protein in C. elegans. By contrast, C. briggsae was shown to be naturally insensitive to ingested dsRNAs, yet could be rendered sensitive by transgenesis with the C. elegans sid-2 gene. Here we aimed to elucidate the evolution of the susceptibility to external RNAi in the Caenorhabditis genus.
We study the sensitivity of many new species of Caenorhabditis to ingested dsRNAs matching a conserved actin gene sequence from the nematode Oscheius tipulae. We find ample variation in the Caenorhabditis genus in the ability to mount an RNAi response. We map this sensitivity onto a phylogenetic tree, and show that sensitivity or insensitivity have evolved convergently several times. We uncover several evolutionary losses in sensitivity, which may have occurred through distinct mechanisms. We could render C. remanei and C. briggsae sensitive to ingested dsRNAs by transgenesis of the Cel-sid-2 gene. We thus provide tools for RNA interference studies in these species. We also show that transgenesis by injection is possible in many Caenorhabditis species.
The ability of animals to take up dsRNAs or to respond to them by gene inactivation is under rapid evolution in the Caenorhabditis genus. This study provides a framework and tools to use RNA interference and transgenesis in various Caenorhabditis species for further comparative and evolutionary studies.
PLoS ONE 01/2012; 7(1):e29811. · 3.53 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Robust biological systems are expected to accumulate cryptic genetic variation that does not affect the system output in standard conditions yet may play an evolutionary role once phenotypically expressed under a strong perturbation. Genetic variation that is cryptic relative to a robust trait may accumulate neutrally as it does not change the phenotype, yet it could also evolve under selection if it affects traits related to fitness in addition to its cryptic effect. Cryptic variation affecting the vulval intercellular signaling network was previously uncovered among wild isolates of Caenorhabditis elegans. Using a quantitative genetic approach, we identify a non-synonymous polymorphism of the previously uncharacterized nath-10 gene that affects the vulval phenotype when the system is sensitized with different mutations, but not in wild-type strains. nath-10 is an essential protein acetyltransferase gene and the homolog of human NAT10. The nath-10 polymorphism also presents non-cryptic effects on life history traits. The nath-10 allele carried by the N2 reference strain leads to a subtle increase in the egg laying rate and in the total number of sperm, a trait affecting the trade-off between fertility and minimal generation time in hermaphrodite individuals. We show that this allele appeared during early laboratory culture of N2, which allowed us to test whether it may have evolved under selection in this novel environment. The derived allele indeed strongly outcompetes the ancestral allele in laboratory conditions. In conclusion, we identified the molecular nature of a cryptic genetic variation and characterized its evolutionary history. These results show that cryptic genetic variation does not necessarily accumulate neutrally at the whole-organism level, but may evolve through selection for pleiotropic effects that alter fitness. In addition, cultivation in the laboratory has led to adaptive evolution of the reference strain N2 to the laboratory environment, which may modify other phenotypes of interest.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans is a major laboratory model in biology. Only ten Caenorhabditis species were available in culture at the onset of this study. Many of them, like C. elegans, were mostly isolated from artificial compost heaps, and their more natural habitat was unknown.
Caenorhabditis nematodes were found to be proliferating in rotten fruits, flowers and stems. By collecting a large worldwide set of such samples, 16 new Caenorhabditis species were discovered. We performed mating tests to establish biological species status and found some instances of semi-fertile or sterile hybrid progeny. We established barcodes for all species using ITS2 rDNA sequences. By obtaining sequence data for two rRNA and nine protein-coding genes, we determined the likely phylogenetic relationships among the 26 species in culture. The new species are part of two well-resolved sister clades that we call the Elegans super-group and the Drosophilae super-group. We further scored phenotypic characters such as reproductive mode, mating behavior and male tail morphology, and discuss their congruence with the phylogeny. A small space between rays 2 and 3 evolved once in the stem species of the Elegans super-group; a narrow fan and spiral copulation evolved once in the stem species of C. angaria, C. sp. 8 and C. sp. 12. Several other character changes occurred convergently. For example, hermaphroditism evolved three times independently in C. elegans, C. briggsae and C. sp. 11. Several species can co-occur in the same location or even the same fruit. At the global level, some species have a cosmopolitan distribution: C. briggsae is particularly widespread, while C. elegans and C. remanei are found mostly or exclusively in temperate regions, and C. brenneri and C. sp. 11 exclusively in tropical zones. Other species have limited distributions, for example C. sp. 5 appears to be restricted to China, C. sp. 7 to West Africa and C. sp. 8 to the Eastern United States.
Caenorhabditis are "fruit worms", not soil nematodes. The 16 new species provide a resource and their phylogeny offers a framework for further studies into the evolution of genomic and phenotypic characters.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The C. elegans cell lineage is overall invariant. One rare instance of variability concerns P3.p, the most anterior vulva precursor cell, which may either fuse with the epidermis without dividing, or remain competent to form vulval tissue and divide. Here we examine the evolutionary properties of this stochastic variation in P3.p fate. In the Caenorhabditis genus, high P3.p competence is ancestral and reduction in P3.p competence and division frequency occurred in C. sp. 14 and in a clade of nine species. Within this clade, the frequency of P3.p division further varies within and among species, being intermediate in C. elegans and low in C. briggsae. P3.p fate frequency is sensitive to random mutation accumulation, suggesting that this trait may evolve rapidly because of its sensitivity to mutational impact. P3.p fate depends on LIN-39/Hox5 expression and we find that the peak of LIN-39/Hox5 protein level is displaced posteriorly in C. briggsae compared to C. elegans. However, P3.p fate specification is most sensitive to the dose of EGL-20 and CWN-1, two Wnts that are secreted in a long-range gradient from the posterior end of C. elegans larvae (accompanying article). A half-dose of either of these Wnts is sufficient to affect division frequency in C. elegans N2 to levels similar to those in C. briggsae. Symmetrically, we show that an increase in Wnt dose rescues anterior competence in C. briggsae. We propose that evolutionary variation in the concentration or interpretation of the long-range Wnt gradient may be involved in the rapid evolution of P3.p fate in Caenorhabditis.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Cell competence is a key developmental property. The Caenorhabditis elegans vulval competence group consists of P(3-8).p, six cells aligned along the antero-posterior axis in a wide central body region. The six cells are not equal in their competence: 1) P3.p quits the competence group in half of the individuals; 2) the posterior cells P7.p and P8.p are less competent than central vulval precursor cells. Competence to adopt a vulval fate is controlled by expression of the HOM-C gene lin-39, and maintained through Wnt signals that are secreted from the tail in a long-range gradient. Here we quantify the LIN-39 protein profile in vulval precursor cells of early L2 stage larvae, prior to P3.p fusion and inductive signaling. We show that LIN-39 levels are very low in P3.p and P4.p, peak in P5.p and progressively decrease until P8.p. This unexpectedly centered profile arises independently from the gonad. Posterior Wnt signaling reduces LIN-39 level in the posterior cells by activating the next-posterior HOM-C gene, mab-5. On the anterior side, P3.p and P4.p competence and division are sensitive to the already low LIN-39 and Wnt doses; most dramatically, each of the cwn-1/Wnt and egl-20/Wnt genes show haplo-insufficience for P3.p fate. In contrast to previous results, we find that these Wnts maintain P3.p and P4.p competence without affecting their LIN-39 level. The centered vulval competence profile is thus under the control of the posterior Wnts and of cross-regulation of three HOM-C genes and prepatterns the later induction of vulval fates.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Biological networks experience quantitative change in response to environmental and evolutionary variation. Computational modeling allows exploration of network parameter space corresponding to such variations. The intercellular signaling network underlying Caenorhabditis vulval development specifies three fates in a row of six precursor cells, yielding a quasi-invariant 3°3°2°1°2°3° cell fate pattern. Two seemingly conflicting verbal models of vulval precursor cell fate specification have been proposed: sequential induction by the EGF-MAP kinase and Notch pathways, or morphogen-based induction by the former.
To study the mechanistic and evolutionary system properties of this network, we combine experimental studies with computational modeling, using a model that keeps the network architecture constant but varies parameters. We first show that the Delta autocrine loop can play an essential role in 2° fate specification. With this autocrine loop, the same network topology can be quantitatively tuned to use in the six-cell-row morphogen-based or sequential patterning mechanisms, which may act singly, cooperatively, or redundantly. Moreover, different quantitative tunings of this same network can explain vulval patterning observed experimentally in C. elegans, C. briggsae, C. remanei, and C. brenneri. We experimentally validate model predictions, such as interspecific differences in isolated vulval precursor cell behavior and in spatial regulation of Notch activity.
Our study illustrates how quantitative variation in the same network comprises developmental patterning modes that were previously considered qualitatively distinct and also accounts for evolution among closely related species.
Current biology: CB 03/2011; 21(7):527-38. · 10.99 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: An ideal model system to study antiviral immunity and host-pathogen co-evolution would combine a genetically tractable small animal with a virus capable of naturally infecting the host organism. The use of C. elegans as a model to define host-viral interactions has been limited by the lack of viruses known to infect nematodes. From wild isolates of C. elegans and C. briggsae with unusual morphological phenotypes in intestinal cells, we identified two novel RNA viruses distantly related to known nodaviruses, one infecting specifically C. elegans (Orsay virus), the other C. briggsae (Santeuil virus). Bleaching of embryos cured infected cultures demonstrating that the viruses are neither stably integrated in the host genome nor transmitted vertically. 0.2 µm filtrates of the infected cultures could infect cured animals. Infected animals continuously maintained viral infection for 6 mo (∼50 generations), demonstrating that natural cycles of horizontal virus transmission were faithfully recapitulated in laboratory culture. In addition to infecting the natural C. elegans isolate, Orsay virus readily infected laboratory C. elegans mutants defective in RNAi and yielded higher levels of viral RNA and infection symptoms as compared to infection of the corresponding wild-type N2 strain. These results demonstrated a clear role for RNAi in the defense against this virus. Furthermore, different wild C. elegans isolates displayed differential susceptibility to infection by Orsay virus, thereby affording genetic approaches to defining antiviral loci. This discovery establishes a bona fide viral infection system to explore the natural ecology of nematodes, host-pathogen co-evolution, the evolution of small RNA responses, and innate antiviral mechanisms.