Ce-Duox1/BLI-3 generated reactive oxygen species trigger protective SKN-1 activity via p38 MAPK signaling during infection in C. elegans

PLoS Pathog. 2011 Dec;7(12):e1002453. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1002453. Epub 2011 Dec 22.


Infected animals will produce reactive oxygen species (ROS) and other inflammatory molecules that help fight pathogens, but can inadvertently damage host tissue. Therefore specific responses, which protect and repair against the collateral damage caused by the immune response, are critical for successfully surviving pathogen attack. We previously demonstrated that ROS are generated during infection in the model host Caenorhabditis elegans by the dual oxidase Ce-Duox1/BLI-3. Herein, an important connection between ROS generation by Ce-Duox1/BLI-3 and upregulation of a protective transcriptional response by SKN-1 is established in the context of infection. SKN-1 is an ortholog of the mammalian Nrf transcription factors and has previously been documented to promote survival, following oxidative stress, by upregulating genes involved in the detoxification of ROS and other reactive compounds. Using qRT-PCR, transcriptional reporter fusions, and a translational fusion, SKN-1 is shown to become highly active in the C. elegans intestine upon exposure to the human bacterial pathogens, Enterococcus faecalis and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Activation is dependent on the overall pathogenicity of the bacterium, demonstrated by a weakened response observed in attenuated mutants of these pathogens. Previous work demonstrated a role for p38 MAPK signaling both in pathogen resistance and in activating SKN-1 upon exposure to chemically induced oxidative stress. We show that NSY-1, SEK-1 and PMK-1 are also required for SKN-1 activity during infection. Evidence is also presented that the ROS produced by Ce-Duox1/BLI-3 is the source of SKN-1 activation via p38 MAPK signaling during infection. Finally, for the first time, SKN-1 activity is shown to be protective during infection; loss of skn-1 decreases resistance, whereas increasing SKN-1 activity augments resistance to pathogen. Overall, a model is presented in which ROS generation by Ce-Duox1/BLI-3 activates a protective SKN-1 response via p38 MAPK signaling.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / genetics
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / immunology
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / metabolism*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / genetics
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / immunology
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / metabolism*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / immunology
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • Enterococcus faecalis*
  • Enzyme Activation / genetics
  • Enzyme Activation / immunology
  • Gram-Positive Bacterial Infections / genetics
  • Gram-Positive Bacterial Infections / immunology
  • Gram-Positive Bacterial Infections / metabolism*
  • Immunity, Innate / physiology*
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism
  • Intestines / immunology
  • Intestines / microbiology
  • MAP Kinase Signaling System / physiology*
  • Oxidoreductases / genetics
  • Oxidoreductases / immunology
  • Oxidoreductases / metabolism*
  • Pseudomonas Infections / genetics
  • Pseudomonas Infections / immunology
  • Pseudomonas Infections / metabolism*
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa*
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / immunology
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism*
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / immunology
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • p38 Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / genetics
  • p38 Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / immunology
  • p38 Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / metabolism*


  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Transcription Factors
  • skn-1 protein, C elegans
  • Bli-3 protein, C elegans
  • Oxidoreductases
  • p38 Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases