Caenorhabditis elegans star formation and negative chemotaxis induced by infection with corynebacteria

Camila Azevedo Antunes, Laura Clark, Marie Therès Wanuske, Elena Hacker, Lisa Ott, Liliane Simpson-Louredo, Maria das Gracas de Luna, Raphael Hirata, Ana Luíza Mattos-Guaraldi, Jonathan Hodgkin, Andreas Burkovski*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Caenorhabditis elegans is one of the major model systems in biology based on advantageous properties such as short life span, transparency, genetic tractability and ease of culture using an Escherichia coli diet. In its natural habitat, compost and rotting plant material, this nematode lives on bacteria. However, C. elegans is a predator of bacteria, but can also be infected by nematopathogenic coryneform bacteria such Microbacterium and Leucobacter species, which display intriguing and diverse modes of pathogenicity. Depending on the nematode pathogen, aggregates of worms, termed worm-stars, can be formed, or severe rectal swelling, so-called Dar formation, can be induced. Using the human and animal pathogens Corynebacterium diphtheriae and Corynebacterium ulcerans as well as the non-pathogenic species Corynebacterium glutamicum, we show that these coryneform bacteria can also induce star formation slowly in worms, as well as a severe tail-swelling phenotype. While C. glutamicum had a significant, but minor influence on survival of C. elegans, nematodes were killed after infection with C. diphtheriae and C. ulcerans. The two pathogenic species were avoided by the nematodes and induced aversive learning in C. elegans.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)84-93
Number of pages10
JournalMicrobiology (United Kingdom)
Issue number1
Early online date1 Jan 2016
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 Jan 2016

Cite this