Bacillus thuringiensis targets the host intestinal epithelial junctions for successful infection of Caenorhabditis elegans
Pathogenic bacteria use different strategies to infect their hosts including the simultaneous production of pore forming toxins and several virulence factors that help to synergize their pathogenic effects. However, how the pathogenic bacteria are able to complete their life cycle and break out the host intestinal barrier is poorly understood. The infectious cycle of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) bacterium in Caenorhabditis elegans is a powerful model system to study the early stages of the infection process. Bt produces Cry pore-forming toxins during the sporulation phase that are key virulence factors involved in Bt pathogenesis. Here we show that during the early stages of infection, the Cry toxins disrupt the midgut epithelial tissue allowing the germination of spores. The vegetative Bt cells then trigger a quorum sensing response that is activated by PlcR regulator resulting in production of different virulence factors, such as the metalloproteinases ColB and Bmp1, that besides Cry toxins are necessary to disrupt the nematode epithelial junctions causing efficient bacterial host infection and dead of the nematode. Overall our work describes a novel mechanism for Bt infection, targeting the epithelial junctions of its host midgut cells.
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