Papers in the Biological Sciences


Date of this Version



Radeke and Herman BMC Microbiology (2020) 20:170


© The Author(s). 2020


Background: Stenotrophomonas maltophilia is an emerging nosocomial pathogen that causes infection in immunocompromised patients. S. maltophilia isolates are genetically diverse, contain diverse virulence factors, and are variably pathogenic within several host species. Members of the Stenotrophomonas genus are part of the native microbiome of C. elegans, being found in greater relative abundance within the worm than its environment, suggesting that these bacteria accumulate within C. elegans. Thus, study of the C. elegans-Stenotrophomonas interaction is of both medical and ecological significance. To identify host defense mechanisms, we analyzed the C. elegans transcriptomic response to S. maltophilia strains of varying pathogenicity: K279a, an avirulent clinical isolate, JCMS, a virulent strain isolated in association with soil nematodes near Manhattan, KS, and JV3, an even more virulent environmental isolate.

Results: Overall, we found 145 genes that are commonly differentially expressed in response to pathogenic S. maltophilia strains, 89% of which are upregulated, with many even further upregulated in response to JV3 as compared to JCMS. There are many more JV3-specific differentially expressed genes (225, 11% upregulated) than JCMS-specific differentially expressed genes (14, 86% upregulated), suggesting JV3 has unique pathogenic mechanisms that could explain its increased virulence. We used connectivity within a gene network model to choose pathogen-specific and strain-specific differentially expressed candidate genes for functional analysis. Mutations in 13 of 22 candidate genes caused significant differences in C. elegans survival in response to at least one S. maltophilia strain, although not always the strain that induced differential expression, suggesting a dynamic response to varying levels of pathogenicity.

Conclusions: Variation in observed pathogenicity and differences in host transcriptional responses to S. maltophilia strains reveal that strain-specific mechanisms play important roles in S. maltophilia pathogenesis. Furthermore, utilizing bacteria closely related to strains found in C. elegans natural environment provides a more realistic interaction for understanding host-pathogen response.

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