Analysis of the Caenorhabditis elegans innate immune response to Coxiella burnetii

James M. Battisti, Lance A. Watson, Myo T. Naung, Adam M. Drobish, Ekaterina Voronina, Michael F. Minnick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans is well established as a system for characterization and discovery of molecular mechanisms mediating microbe-specific inducible innate immune responses to human pathogens. Coxiella burnetii is an obligate intracellular bacterium that causes a flu-like syndrome in humans (Q fever), as well as abortions in domesticated livestock, worldwide. Initially, when wild type C. elegans (N2 strain) was exposed to mCherry-expressing C. burnetii (CCB) a number of overt pathological manifestations resulted, including intestinal distension, deformed anal region and a decreased lifespan. However, nematodes fed autoclave-killed CCB did not exhibit these symptoms. Although vertebrates detect C. burnetii via TLRs, pathologies in tol-1(-) mutant nematodes were indistinguishable from N2, and indicate nematodes do not employ this orthologue for detection of C. burnetii. sek-1(-) MAP kinase mutant nematodes succumbed to infection faster, suggesting that this signaling pathway plays a role in immune activation, as previously shown for orthologues in vertebrates during a C. burnetii infection. C. elegans daf-2(-) mutants are hyper-immune and exhibited significantly reduced pathological consequences during challenge. Collectively, these results demonstrate the utility of C. elegans for studying the innate immune response against C. burnetii and could lead to discovery of novel methods for prevention and treatment of disease in humans and livestock.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-127
Number of pages17
JournalInnate Immunity
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2017


  • Caenorhabditis elegans
  • Coxiella burnetii
  • Q fever
  • human pathogenic bacteria
  • immunity


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