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Title: DiI staining of sensory neurons in the entomopathogenic nematode Steinernema hermaphroditum
Steinernema hermaphroditum entomopathogenic nematodes (EPN) and their Xenorhabdus griffiniae symbiotic bacteria have recently been shown to be a genetically tractable system for the study of both parasitic and mutualistic symbiosis. In their infective juvenile (IJ) stage, EPNs search for insect hosts to invade and quickly kill them with the help of the symbiotic bacteria they contain. The mechanisms behind these behaviors have not been well characterized, including how the nematodes sense their insect hosts. In the well-studied free‑living soil nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, ciliated amphid neurons enable the worms to sense their environment, including chemosensation. Some of these neurons have also been shown to control the decision to develop as a stress-resistant dauer larva, analogous to the infective juveniles of EPNs, or to exit from dauer and resume larval development. In C. elegans and other nematodes, dye-filling with DiI is an easy and efficient method to label these neurons. We developed a protocol for DiI staining of S. hermaphroditum sensory neurons. Using this method, we could identify neurons positionally analogous to the C. elegans amphid neurons ASI, ADL, ASK, ASJ, as well as inner labial neurons IL1 and IL2. Similar to findings in other EPNs, we also found that the IJs of S. hermaphroditum are dye-filling resistant.  more » « less
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microPublication biology
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National Science Foundation
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  1. Abstract Background

    Cells and organisms typically cannot survive in the absence of water. However, some animals including nematodes, tardigrades, rotifers, and some arthropods are able to survive near-complete desiccation. One class of proteins known to play a role in desiccation tolerance is the late embryogenesis abundant (LEA) proteins. These largely disordered proteins protect plants and animals from desiccation. A multitude of studies have characterized stress-protective capabilities of LEA proteins in vitro and in heterologous systems. However, the extent to which LEA proteins exhibit such functions in vivo, in their native contexts in animals, is unclear. Furthermore, little is known about the distribution of LEA proteins in multicellular organisms or tissue-specific requirements in conferring stress protection. Here, we used the nematodeC. elegansas a model to study the endogenous function of an LEA protein in an animal.


    We created a null mutant ofC. elegansLEA-1, as well as endogenous fluorescent reporters of the protein. LEA-1 mutant animals formed defective dauer larvae at high temperature. We confirmed thatC. eleganslacking LEA-1 are sensitive to desiccation. LEA-1 mutants were also sensitive to heat and osmotic stress and were prone to protein aggregation. During desiccation, LEA-1 expression increased and became more widespread throughout the body. LEA-1 was required at high levels in body wall muscle for animals to survive desiccation and osmotic stress, but expression in body wall muscle alone was not sufficient for stress resistance, indicating a likely requirement in multiple tissues. We identified minimal motifs withinC. elegansLEA-1 that were sufficient to increase desiccation survival ofE. coli. To test whether such motifs are central to LEA-1’s in vivo functions, we then replaced the sequence oflea-1with these minimal motifs and found thatC. elegansdauer larvae formed normally and survived osmotic stress and mild desiccation at the same levels as worms with the full-length protein.


    Our results provide insights into the endogenous functions and expression dynamics of an LEA protein in a multicellular animal. The results show that LEA-1 buffers animals from a broad range of stresses. Our identification of LEA motifs that can function in both bacteria and in a multicellular organism in vivo suggests the possibility of engineering LEA-1-derived peptides for optimized desiccation protection.

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  2. Abstract

    Entomopathogenic nematodes (EPNs), including Heterorhabditis and Steinernema, are parasitic to insects and contain mutualistically symbiotic bacteria in their intestines (Photorhabdus and Xenorhabdus, respectively) and therefore offer opportunities to study both mutualistic and parasitic symbiosis. The establishment of genetic tools in EPNs has been impeded by limited genetic tractability, inconsistent growth in vitro, variable cryopreservation, and low mating efficiency. We obtained the recently described Steinernema hermaphroditum strain CS34 and optimized its in vitro growth, with a rapid generation time on a lawn of its native symbiotic bacteria Xenorhabdus griffiniae. We developed a simple and efficient cryopreservation method. Previously, S. hermaphroditum isolated from insect hosts was described as producing hermaphrodites in the first generation. We discovered that CS34, when grown in vitro, produced consecutive generations of autonomously reproducing hermaphrodites accompanied by rare males. We performed mutagenesis screens in S. hermaphroditum that produced mutant lines with visible and heritable phenotypes. Genetic analysis of the mutants demonstrated that this species reproduces by self-fertilization rather than parthenogenesis and that its sex is determined chromosomally. Genetic mapping has thus far identified markers on the X chromosome and three of four autosomes. We report that S. hermaphroditum CS34 is the first consistently hermaphroditic EPN and is suitable for genetic model development to study naturally occurring mutualistic symbiosis and insect parasitism.

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  3. Symbiosis, the beneficial interactions between two organisms, is a ubiquitous feature of all life on Earth, including associations between animals and bacteria. However, the specific molecular and cellular mechanisms which underlie the diverse partnerships formed between animals and bacteria are still being explored. Entomopathogenic nematodes transport bacteria between insect hosts, together they kill the insect, and the bacteria consume the insect and serve as food source for the nematodes. These nematodes, including those in the Steinernema genus, are effective laboratory models for studying the molecular mechanisms of symbiosis because of the natural partnership they form with Xenorhabdus bacteria and their straightforward husbandry. Steinernema hermaphroditum nematodes and their Xenorhabdus griffiniae symbiotic bacteria are being developed as a genetic model pair for studying symbiosis. Our goal in this project was to begin to identify bacterial genes that may be important for symbiotic interactions with the nematode host. Towards this end, we adapted and optimized a protocol for delivery and insertion of a lacZ- promoter-probe transposon for use in the S. hermaphroditum symbiont, X. griffiniae HGB2511 (Cao et al., 2022). We assessed the frequencies at which we obtained exconjugants, metabolic auxotrophic mutants, and active promoter- lacZ fusions. Our data indicate that the Tn 10 transposon inserted relatively randomly based on the finding that 4.7% of the mutants exhibited an auxotrophic phenotype. Promoter-fusions with the transposon-encoded lacZ , which resulted in expression of β-galactosidase activity, occurred in 47% of the strains. To our knowledge, this is the first mutagenesis protocol generated for this bacterial species, and will facilitate the implementation of large scale screens for symbiosis and other phenotypes of interest in X. griffiniae. 
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  5. Summary

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