Innate immunity in C. elegans

In recent years, we have chosen to focus on how the epidermis of C. elegans reacts to infection by natural fungal pathogens. Its response encompasses a pathogen-specific reaction and a more generic stress response. Together these help C. elegans fight infection.

 

Overview

An important part of the reaction of the epidermis to infection is a rapid induction of the expression of many antimicrobial peptide genes. We are dissecting the molecular mechanisms that control this innate immune response, and have started to delineate the different signalling pathways that control it.

162 C. elegans infected by fungi Haptocillium Shaerosporum (DIC/Nomarski). 
Copyright Nathalie Pujol (lab: J. Ewbank), CIML.

In the coming years, we aim to extend these studies and provide an integrated view of innate immune mechanisms in C. elegans by taking a number of complementary approaches:

  • To identify all the genes that intervene in the response of C. elegans to fungal infection, and find novel signalling components, we use a combination of direct genetic screens and genome-wide RNAi screens.
  • We use in vivo TAP-tag, co-IP and ChIP approaches, together with Y1H and Y2H screens, to characterise protein complexes involved in signalling networks.
  • We apply classical immunofluorescence and cryo-immuno EM methods to gain insight into innate immune signalling at the sub-cellular level.
  • To relate these elements to the physiology of the whole organism, we study the organismal response to infection, in order to construct a complete model of how C. elegans fights infection.