Caenorhabditis elegans: plague bacteria biofilm blocks food intake

Nature. 2002 May 16;417(6886):243-4. doi: 10.1038/417243a.


Bubonic plague is transmitted to mammals, including humans, by the bites of fleas whose digestive tracts are blocked by a mass of the bacterium Yersinia pestis. In these fleas, the plague-causing bacteria are surrounded by an extracellular matrix of unknown composition, and the blockage depends on a group of bacterial genes known as the hmsHFRS operon. Here we show that Y. pestis creates an hmsHFRS-dependent extracellular biofilm to inhibit feeding by the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. Our results suggest that feeding obstruction in fleas is a biofilm-mediated process and that biofilms may be a bacterial defence against predation by invertebrates.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biofilms / growth & development*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / genetics
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / growth & development
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / microbiology*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / physiology*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / genetics
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / metabolism
  • Eating*
  • Genes, Bacterial / genetics
  • Genes, Helminth / genetics
  • Host-Parasite Interactions
  • Intestines / microbiology
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Plague / microbiology*
  • Yersinia pestis / genetics
  • Yersinia pestis / growth & development
  • Yersinia pestis / physiology*


  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins