Predators and prey co-evolve, each maximizing their own fitness, but the effects of predator–prey interactions on cellular and molecular machinery are poorly understood. Here, we study this process using the predator Caenorhabditis elegans and the bacterial prey Streptomyces, which have evolved a powerful defense: the production of nematicides. We demonstrate that upon exposure to Streptomyces at their head or tail, nematodes display an escape response that is mediated by bacterially produced cues. Avoidance requires a predicted G-protein-coupled receptor, SRB-6, which is expressed in five types of amphid and phasmid chemosensory neurons. We establish that species of Streptomyces secrete dodecanoic acid, which is sensed by SRB-6. This behavioral adaptation represents an important strategy for the nematode, which utilizes specialized sensory organs and a chemoreceptor that is tuned to recognize the bacteria. These findings provide a window into the molecules and organs used in the coevolutionary arms race between predator and potential prey.
Alan Tran, Angelina Tang, Colleen O’Loughlin, Anthony Balistreri, Eric Chang, Doris Coto Villa, Joy Li, Aruna Varshney, Vanessa Jimenez, Jacqueline Pyle, Bryan Tsujimoto, Christopher Wellbrook, Christopher Vargas, Alex Duong, Nebat Ali, Sarah Matthews, Samantha Levinson, Sarah Woldemariam, Sami Khuri, Martina Bremer, Daryl Eggers, Noelle L’Etoile, Laura Miller Conrad, and Miri VanHoven. "C. elegans avoids toxin-producing Streptomyces using a seven transmembrane domain chemosensory receptor" eLife (2017). doi:10.7554/eLife.23770