Microbial byproducts determine reproductive fitness of free-living and parasitic nematodes

Cell Host Microbe. 2022 Jun 8;30(6):786-797.e8. doi: 10.1016/j.chom.2022.03.015. Epub 2022 Apr 11.


Trichuris nematodes reproduce within the microbiota-rich mammalian intestine and lay thousands of eggs daily, facilitating their sustained presence in the environment and hampering eradication efforts. Here, we show that bacterial byproducts facilitate the reproductive development of nematodes. First, we employed a pipeline using the well-characterized, free-living nematode C. elegans to identify microbial factors with conserved roles in nematode reproduction. A screen for E. coli mutants that impair C. elegans fertility identified genes in fatty acid biosynthesis and ethanolamine utilization pathways, including fabH and eutN. Additionally, Trichuris muris eggs displayed defective hatching in the presence of fabH- or eutN-deficient E. coli due to reduced arginine or elevated aldehydes, respectively. T. muris reared in gnotobiotic mice colonized with these E. coli mutants displayed morphological defects and failed to lay viable eggs. These findings indicate that microbial byproducts mediate evolutionarily conserved transkingdom interactions that impact the reproductive fitness of distantly related nematodes.

Keywords: C. elegans; E. coli; Trichuris; gut microbiome; helminths; nematode; transkingdom interactions.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / microbiology
  • Escherichia coli*
  • Genetic Fitness
  • Mammals
  • Mice
  • Nematoda*
  • Trichuris / microbiology