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Annu Rev Microbiol. 2009;63:557-74. doi: 10.1146/annurev.micro.091208.073507.

Photorhabdus and a host of hosts.

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1
Department of Biology and Biochemistry, University of Bath, Bath BA2 7AY, United Kingdom. bssnw@bath.ac.uk

Abstract

Photorhabdus is a member of the family Enterobacteriaceae that lives in a mutualistic association with a Heterorhabditis nematode worm. The nematode worm burrows into insect prey and regurgitates Photorhabdus, which goes on to kill the insect. The nematode feeds off the growing bacteria until the insect tissues are exhausted, whereupon they reassociate and leave the cadaver in search of new prey. This highly efficient partnership has been used for many years as a biological crop protection agent. The dual nature of Photorhabdus as a pathogen and mutualist makes it a superb model for understanding these apparently exclusive activities. Furthermore, recently identified clinical isolates of Photorhabdus are helping us to understand how human pathogens can emerge from the enormous reservoir of invertebrate pathogens in the environment. As Photorhabdus has never been found outside a host animal, its niche represents an entirely biotic landscape. In this review we discuss what molecular adaptations allow this bacterium to complete this fascinating and complex life cycle.

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