The conserved regulator of autophagy and innate immunity hlh-30/TFEB mediates tolerance of enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli in Caenorhabditis elegans

Genetics. 2021 Mar 3;217(1):1-17. doi: 10.1093/genetics/iyaa052.


Infection with antibiotic-resistant bacteria is an emerging life-threatening issue worldwide. Enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli O157: H7 (EHEC) causes hemorrhagic colitis and hemolytic uremic syndrome via contaminated food. Treatment of EHEC infection with antibiotics is contraindicated because of the risk of worsening the syndrome through the secreted toxins. Identifying the host factors involved in bacterial infection provides information about how to combat this pathogen. In our previous study, we showed that EHEC colonizes in the intestine of Caenorhabditis elegans. However, the host factors involved in EHEC colonization remain elusive. Thus, in this study, we aimed to identify the host factors involved in EHEC colonization. We conducted forward genetic screens to isolate mutants that enhanced EHEC colonization and named this phenotype enhanced intestinal colonization (Inc). Intriguingly, four mutants with the Inc phenotype showed significantly increased EHEC-resistant survival, which contrasts with our current knowledge. Genetic mapping and whole-genome sequencing (WGS) revealed that these mutants have loss-of-function mutations in unc-89. Furthermore, we showed that the tolerance of unc-89(wf132) to EHEC relied on HLH-30/TFEB activation. These findings suggest that hlh-30 plays a key role in pathogen tolerance in C. elegans.

Keywords: Caenorhabditis elegans; unc-89/phm-1; Enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC); HLH-30/TFEB.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors / genetics*
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Caenorhabditis elegans
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / genetics*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / metabolism
  • Enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli / pathogenicity
  • Escherichia coli Infections / genetics*
  • Escherichia coli Infections / immunology
  • Immunity, Innate*
  • Intestines / microbiology
  • Muscle Proteins / genetics
  • Muscle Proteins / metabolism


  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins
  • HLH-30 protein, C elegans
  • Muscle Proteins
  • Unc-89 protein, C elegans