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Biology | Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience | Molecular Biology | Neuroscience and Neurobiology


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.


This article originally appeared in eLife, volume 6, 2017 and can be found online at this link. Copyright Tran et al. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.