Behavioral avoidance of pathogenic bacteria by Caenorhabditis elegans

Trends Immunol. 2014 Oct;35(10):465-70. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2014 Sep 15.


The simple animal host Caenorhabditis elegans utilizes its nervous system to respond to diverse microbial cues, and can engage in a protective behavioral avoidance response to environmental pathogens. This behavior bears hallmarks of an immune response, with sensors and recognition systems that trigger a protective response following a learning experience. Neuronal circuits required for aversive learning have been defined, revealing conserved signaling modules with dual roles in immunity and neuronal responses to pathogenic bacteria. Identification of natural polymorphisms that modulate avoidance behavior has enabled an improved understanding of host-microbe interactions at the molecular level. We review here these findings and discuss how the microbial cues and host responses defined in C. elegans may provide insight into evolutionarily diverse host-microbe interactions.

Keywords: Caenorhabditis elegans; avoidance behavior; host–pathogen interactions.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteria / immunology*
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / immunology*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / microbiology*
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immunity / immunology
  • Signal Transduction / immunology