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Curr Biol. 2004 Jul 27;14(14):1256-61.

The ERK MAP kinase cascade mediates tail swelling and a protective response to rectal infection in C. elegans.

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Genetics Unit, Department of Biochemistry, University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 3QU, United Kingdom.


The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans is proving to be an attractive model organism for investigating innate immune responses to infection. Among the known pathogens of C. elegans is the bacterium Microbacterium nematophilum, which adheres to the nematode rectum and postanal cuticle, inducing swelling of the underlying hypodermal tissue and causing mild constipation. We find that on infection by M. nematophilum, an extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase cascade mediates tail swelling and protects C. elegans from severe constipation, which would otherwise arrest development and cause sterility. Involvement in pathogen defense represents a new role for ERK MAP kinase signaling in this organism.

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