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Concept: Nematode


Taxonomically restricted genes (TRGs), i.e., genes that are restricted to a limited subset of phylogenetically related organisms, may be important in adaptation. In parasitic organisms, TRG-encoded proteins are possible determinants of the specificity of host-parasite interactions. In the root-knot nematode (RKN) Meloidogyne incognita, the map-1 gene family encodes expansin-like proteins that are secreted into plant tissues during parasitism, thought to act as effectors to promote successful root infection. MAP-1 proteins exhibit a modular architecture, with variable number and arrangement of 58 and 13-aa domains in their central part. Here, we address the evolutionary origins of this gene family using a combination of bioinformatics and molecular biology approaches. Map-1 genes were solely identified in one single member of the phylum Nematoda, i.e., the genus Meloidogyne, and not detected in any other nematode, thus indicating that the map-1 gene family is indeed a TRG family. A phylogenetic analysis of the distribution of map-1 genes in RKNs further showed that these genes are specifically present in species that reproduce by mitotic parthenogenesis, with the exception of M. floridensis, and could not be detected in RKNs reproducing by either meiotic parthenogenesis or amphimixis. These results highlight the divergence between mitotic and meiotic RKN species as a critical transition in the evolutionary history of these parasites. Analysis of the sequence conservation and organization of repeated domains in map-1 genes suggests that gene duplication(s) together with domain loss/duplication have contributed to the evolution of the map-1 family, and that some strong selection mechanism may be acting upon these genes to maintain their functional role(s) in the specificity of the plant-RKN interactions.

Concepts: Gene, Evolution, Biology, Organism, Species, Nematode, Nematodes, Root-knot nematode


BACKGROUND: The gene encoding PAD4 (PHYTOALEXIN-DEFICIENT4) is required in Arabidopsis for expression of several genes involved in the defense response to Pseudomonas syringae pv. maculicola. AtPAD4 (Arabidopsis thaliana PAD4) encodes a lipase-like protein that plays a regulatory role mediating salicylic acid signaling. RESULTS: We expressed the gene encoding AtPAD4 in soybean roots of composite plants to test the ability of AtPAD4 to deter plant parasitic nematode development. The transformed roots were challenged with two different plant parasitic nematode genera represented by soybean cyst nematode (SCN; Heterodera glycines) and root-knot nematode (RKN; Meloidogyne incognita). Expression of AtPAD4 in soybean roots decreased the number of mature SCN females 35 days after inoculation by 68 percent. Similarly, soybean roots expressing AtPAD4 exhibited 77 percent fewer galls when challenged with RKN. CONCLUSIONS: Our experiments show that AtPAD4 can be used in an economically important crop, soybean, to provide a measure of resistance to two different genera of nematodes.

Concepts: Parasites, Nematode, Model organism, Nematodes, Plant pathogens and diseases, Pseudomonas syringae, Root-knot nematode, Heterodera


BACKGROUND: Resistance against benzimidazoles (BZ) has recently been detected in Norwegian sheep flocks through a large scale prevalence survey based on the faecal egg count reduction test (FECRT). The use of this test in combination with bulk larval culture only gives an indication of which gastrointestinal nematodes genera that are involved and these results have to be confirmed by a controlled efficacy test (CET) to get accurate information about resistant nematodes populations at species level. A CET was therefore performed with larvae from two flocks where BZ resistance was previously detected through FECRT. RESULTS: The latter test confirmed the previous results in both flocks. In flock A, the BZ resistant nematode population consisted solely of Haemonchus contortus, whereas H. contortus and Teladorsagia circumcincta comprised the resistant worm population in flock B. CONCLUSIONS: Some discrepancies that have been recorded between FECRT and CET results regarding time for post-treatment coproscopical examination and a temporary suppression of faecal egg excretion are discussed.

Concepts: Parasites, Biology, Insect, Nematode, Nematodes, Annelid, Norway, Haemonchus contortus


Solanum torvum Sw is worldwide employed as rootstock for eggplant cultivation because of its vigour and resistance/tolerance to the most serious soil-borne diseases as bacterial, fungal wilts and root-knot nematodes. The little information on Solanum torvum (hereafter Torvum) resistance mechanisms, is mostly attributable to the lack of genomic tools (e.g. dedicated microarray) as well as to the paucity of database information limiting high-throughput expression studies in Torvum.

Concepts: Parasites, Nematode, Nematodes, Solanum, Plant pathogens and diseases, Root-knot nematode, Meloidogyne incognita, Meloidogyne


Technology has contributed to the advances on the genomic, transcriptomic, metabolomic and proteomic analyses of the plant-root-knot nematode (RKN) interaction. Holistic approaches to obtain expression profiles, such as cDNA libraries, differential display, q-PCR, microarray hybridization, massive sequencing, etc., have increased our knowledge on the molecular aspects of the interaction and have triggered the development of biotechnological tools to control this plague. An important limitation, however, has been the difficulty of cross-comparative analysis of these data. The construction of a database, NEMATIC, compiling microarray data available in Arabidopsis of the interaction with plant endoparasitic nematodes facilitated the in silico analysis, but is not sufficient for the handling of ‘omic’ information of different plant species. Omics combined with cell isolation techniques have shed some light on the heterogeneous expression signatures of nematode induced gall tissues, i.e., plant defences are specifically inhibited in giant cells within the gall aiding the nematode for a successful establishment. The natural resistance against RKNs varies from an early hypersensitive reaction before the establishment of the nematode, to the arrest of gall growth. The molecular bases of these mechanisms, not fully understood yet, could disclose powerful targets for the development of biotechnology based tools for nematode control.

Concepts: DNA, Molecular biology, Nematode, Model organism, Biotechnology, Nematodes, Proteomics, DNA microarray


Cuticle collagens form a major part of the nematode cuticle and are responsible for maintaining the overall shape of the animal and its protection from the external environment. Although substantial research on cuticle collagen genes has been carried out in Caenorhabditis elegans, their isolation and characterization in plant parasitic nematodes have been limited to a few genes only. In this study, a cuticle collagen gene, Mi-col-5, was isolated from root-knot nematode, Meloidogyne incognita. A partial segment of 402 bp was first cloned and analyzed on Gbrowse followed by subsequent cloning of the 1047 bp long full cDNA specifying the open reading frame. The deduced amino acid sequence showed 92% sequence identity with that of Mj-col-5. However, a transmembrane helix was predicted in Mi-col-5 which was not present in Mj-col-5. The conserved pattern of cysteine residues in Mi-col-5 suggested that it belonged to group 2 of nematode cuticle collagens but with a longer carboxy terminal region as was the case with Mj-col-5. Domain prediction revealed the presence of a nematode cuticle collagen N terminal domain and a pfam collagen domain along with collagen triple helix repeats. A phylogenetic tree based on the amino acid sequences showed evolutionary relationship of Mi-col-5 with cuticle collagens genes of other nematodes. 3D models for Mi-col-5 were predicted with the best confidence score of -2.78. Expression of Mi-col-5 transcript was found to be maximum in egg masses followed by adult females and J2s suggesting its role in the early stages of the development of the nematode during its life cycle.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Amino acid, Collagen, Caenorhabditis elegans, Nematode, Nematodes, Root-knot nematode


Early detection and treatment are of vital importance to the successful eradication of various cancers, and development of economical and non-invasive novel cancer screening systems is critical. Previous reports using canine scent detection demonstrated the existence of cancer-specific odours. However, it is difficult to introduce canine scent recognition into clinical practice because of the need to maintain accuracy. In this study, we developed a Nematode Scent Detection Test (NSDT) using Caenorhabditis elegans to provide a novel highly accurate cancer detection system that is economical, painless, rapid and convenient. We demonstrated wild-type C. elegans displayed attractive chemotaxis towards human cancer cell secretions, cancer tissues and urine from cancer patients but avoided control urine; in parallel, the response of the olfactory neurons of C. elegans to the urine from cancer patients was significantly stronger than to control urine. In contrast, G protein α mutants and olfactory neurons-ablated animals were not attracted to cancer patient urine, suggesting that C. elegans senses odours in urine. We tested 242 samples to measure the performance of the NSDT, and found the sensitivity was 95.8%; this is markedly higher than that of other existing tumour markers. Furthermore, the specificity was 95.0%. Importantly, this test was able to diagnose various cancer types tested at the early stage (stage 0 or 1). To conclude, C. elegans scent-based analyses might provide a new strategy to detect and study disease-associated scents.

Concepts: Cancer, Oncology, Type I and type II errors, Caenorhabditis elegans, Caenorhabditis, Nematode, Olfaction, Odor


How do very small animals with limited long-distance dispersal abilities move between locations, especially if they prefer ephemeral micro-habitats that are only available for short periods of time? The free-living model nematode Caenorhabditis elegans and several congeneric taxa appear to be common in such short-lived environments, for example decomposing fruits or other rotting plant material. Dispersal is usually assumed to depend on animal vectors, yet all current data is based on only a limited number of studies. In our project we performed three comprehensive field surveys on possible invertebrate vectors in North German locations containing populations of C. elegans and two related species, especially C. remanei, and combined these screens with an experimental analysis of persistence in one of the vector taxa.

Concepts: Caenorhabditis elegans, Animal, Caenorhabditis, Nematode, Model organism, Rhabditidae, Sydney Brenner, Caenorhabditis briggsae


Dietary restriction (DR) is a dietary regimen that extends lifespan in many organisms. One mechanism contributing to the conserved effect of DR on longevity is the cellular recycling process autophagy, which is induced in response to nutrient scarcity and increases sequestration of cytosolic material into double-membrane autophagosomes for degradation in the lysosome. Although autophagy plays a direct role in DR-mediated lifespan extension in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, the contribution of autophagy in individual tissues remains unclear. In this study, we show a critical role for autophagy in the intestine, a major metabolic tissue, to ensure lifespan extension of dietary-restricted eat-2 mutants. The intestine of eat-2 mutants has an enlarged lysosomal compartment and flux assays indicate increased turnover of autophagosomes, consistent with an induction of autophagy in this tissue. This increase in intestinal autophagy may underlie the improved intestinal integrity we observe in eat-2 mutants, since whole-body and intestinal-specific inhibition of autophagy in eat-2 mutants greatly impairs the intestinal barrier function. Interestingly, intestinal-specific inhibition of autophagy in eat-2 mutants leads to a decrease in motility with age, alluding to a potential cell non-autonomous role for autophagy in the intestine. Collectively, these results highlight important functions for autophagy in the intestine of dietary-restricted C. elegans.

Concepts: Cell, Organelle, Caenorhabditis elegans, Animal, Caenorhabditis, Nematode, Model organism, Rhabditidae


Sedentary plant-parasitic cyst nematodes are biotrophs that cause significant losses in agriculture. Parasitism is based on modifications of host root cells that lead to the formation of a hypermetabolic feeding site (a syncytium) from which nematodes withdraw nutrients. The host cell cycle is activated in an initial cell selected by the nematode for feeding, followed by activation of neighboring cells and subsequent expansion of feeding site through fusion of hundreds of cells. It is generally assumed that nematodes manipulate production and signaling of the plant hormone cytokinin to activate cell division. In fact, nematodes have been shown to produce cytokinin in vitro; however, whether the hormone is secreted into host plants and plays a role in parasitism remained unknown. Here, we analyzed the spatiotemporal activation of cytokinin signaling during interaction between the cyst nematode, Heterodera schachtii, and Arabidopsis using cytokinin-responsive promoter:reporter lines. Our results showed that cytokinin signaling is activated not only in the syncytium but also in neighboring cells to be incorporated into syncytium. An analysis of nematode infection on mutants that are deficient in cytokinin or cytokinin signaling revealed a significant decrease in susceptibility of these plants to nematodes. Further, we identified a cytokinin-synthesizing isopentenyltransferase gene in H. schachtii and show that silencing of this gene in nematodes leads to a significant decrease in virulence due to a reduced expansion of feeding sites. Our findings demonstrate the ability of a plant-parasitic nematode to synthesize a functional plant hormone to manipulate the host system and establish a long-term parasitic interaction.

Concepts: Cell, Bacteria, Arthropod, Caenorhabditis elegans, Nematode, Model organism, Nematodes, Heterodera