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EMBO Rep. 2008 Jan;9(1):103-9. Epub 2007 Nov 2.

A conserved Toll-like receptor is required for Caenorhabditis elegans innate immunity.

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Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, Duke University Medical Center, Duke University, Durham, NC 27710, USA.


Pathogen recognition through Toll-like receptors (TLRs) is crucial in order to mount an appropriate immune response against microorganisms. On the basis of a lack of evidence indicating that Caenorhabditis elegans uses TLRs to elicit an immune response and on the absence of genes encoding Rel-like transcription factors in its genome, it is believed that TLR-mediated immunity arose after coelomates split from pseudocoelomates and acoelomates. Here, we show that C. elegans tol-1(nr2033) mutants are killed by the human pathogen Salmonella enterica, which causes a significant pharyngeal invasion in the absence of TOL-1-mediated immunity. We also show that TOL-1 is required for the correct expression of ABF-2, which is a defensin-like molecule expressed in the pharynx, and heat-shock protein 16.41, which is also expressed in the pharynx and is part of a HSP family of proteins required for C. elegans immunity. The results indicate that TOL-1 has a direct role in defence response to certain Gram-negative bacteria and indicate that part of the TLR-mediated immunity might be evolutionarily conserved.

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