Nematode-Trapping Fungi Eavesdrop on Nematode Pheromones
Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Division of Biology, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91125, USA.Current biology: CB (Impact Factor: 9.57). 12/2012; 23(1). DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2012.11.035
The recognition of molecular patterns associated with specific pathogens or food sources is fundamental to ecology and plays a major role in the evolution of predator-prey relationships . Recent studies showed that nematodes produce an evolutionarily highly conserved family of small molecules, the ascarosides, which serve essential functions in regulating nematode development and behavior [2-4]. Here, we show that nematophagous fungi, natural predators of soil-dwelling nematodes , can detect and respond to ascarosides. Nematophagous fungi use specialized trapping devices to catch and consume nematodes, and previous studies demonstrated that most fungal species do not produce traps constitutively but rather initiate trap formation in response to their prey . We found that ascarosides, which are constitutively secreted by many species of soil-dwelling nematodes, represent a conserved molecular pattern used by nematophagous fungi to detect prey and trigger trap formation. Ascaroside-induced morphogenesis is conserved in several closely related species of nematophagous fungi and occurs only under nutrient-deprived conditions. Our results demonstrate that microbial predators eavesdrop on chemical communication among their metazoan prey to regulate morphogenesis, providing a striking example of predator-prey coevolution. We anticipate that these findings will have broader implications for understanding other interkingdom interactions involving nematodes, which are found in almost any ecological niche on Earth.
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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 .
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ABSTRACT: Malate synthase (Mls), a key enzyme in the glyoxylate cycle, is required for virulence in microbial pathogens. In this study, we identified the AoMls gene from the nematode-trapping fungus Arthobotrys oligospora. The gene contains 4 introns and encodes a polypeptide of 540 amino acids. To characterize the function of AoMls in A. oligospora, we disrupted it by homologous recombination, and the ΔAoMls mutants were confirmed by PCR and Southern blot analyses. The growth rate and colony morphology of the ΔAoMls mutants showed no obvious difference from the wild-type strains on potato dextrose agar (PDA) plate. However, the disruption of gene AoMls led to a significant reduction in conidiation, failure to utilize fatty acids and sodium acetate for growth, and its conidia were unable to germinate on minimal medium supplemented with sodium oleate. In addition, the trap formation was retarded in the ΔAoMls mutants, which only produced immature traps containing one or two rings. Moreover, the nematicidal activity of the ΔAoMls mutants was significantly decreased. Our results suggest that the gene AoMls plays an important role in conidiation, trap formation and pathogenicity of A. oligospora.
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