Worms need microbes too: microbiota, health and aging in Caenorhabditis elegans

EMBO Mol Med. 2013 Sep;5(9):1300-10. doi: 10.1002/emmm.201100972. Epub 2013 Aug 1.


Many animal species live in close association with commensal and symbiotic microbes (microbiota). Recent studies have revealed that the status of gastrointestinal tract microbiota can influence nutrition-related syndromes such as obesity and type-2 diabetes, and perhaps aging. These morbidities have a profound impact in terms of individual suffering, and are an increasing economic burden to modern societies. Several theories have been proposed for the influence of microbiota on host metabolism, but these largely remain to be proven. In this article we discuss how microbiota may be manipulated (via pharmacology, diet, or gene manipulation) in order to alter metabolism, immunity, health and aging in the host. The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans in combination with one microbial species is an excellent, defined model system to investigate the mechanisms of host-microbiota interactions, particularly given the combined power of worm and microbial genetics. We also discuss the multifaceted nature of the worm-microbe relationship, which likely encompasses predation, commensalism, pathogenicity and necromeny.

Keywords: C. elegans; aging; metformin; microbiota; type-2 diabetes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / microbiology*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / physiology*
  • Microbiota*
  • Models, Animal
  • Symbiosis*