Ascaroside activity in Caenorhabditis elegans is highly dependent on chemical structure

Bioorg Med Chem. 2013 Sep 15;21(18):5754-69. doi: 10.1016/j.bmc.2013.07.018. Epub 2013 Jul 18.


The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans secretes ascarosides, structurally diverse derivatives of the 3,6-dideoxysugar ascarylose, and uses them in chemical communication. At high population densities, specific ascarosides, which are together known as the dauer pheromone, trigger entry into the stress-resistant dauer larval stage. In order to study the structure-activity relationships for the ascarosides, we synthesized a panel of ascarosides and tested them for dauer-inducing activity. This panel includes a number of natural ascarosides that were detected in crude pheromone extract, but as yet have no assigned function, as well as many unnatural ascaroside derivatives. Most of these ascarosides, some of which have significant structural similarity to the natural dauer pheromone components, have very little dauer-inducing activity. Our results provide a primer to ascaroside structure-activity relationships and suggest that slight modifications to ascaroside structure dramatically influence binding to the relevant G protein-coupled receptors that control dauer formation.

Keywords: Ascarosides; Caenorhabditis elegans; Dauer formation; Nematodes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / growth & development
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / metabolism*
  • Glycolipids / chemical synthesis
  • Glycolipids / chemistry*
  • Glycolipids / pharmacology
  • Larva / drug effects
  • Larva / physiology
  • Pheromones / chemical synthesis
  • Pheromones / chemistry*
  • Pheromones / pharmacology
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • Glycolipids
  • Pheromones