Intestinal infection regulates behavior and learning via neuroendocrine signaling.
The recognition of pathogens and subsequent activation of defense responses are critical for the survival of organisms. The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans recognizes pathogenic bacteria and elicits defense responses by activating immune pathways and pathogen avoidance. Here we show that chemosensation of phenazines produced by pathogenic Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which leads to rapid activation of DAF-7/TGF-β in ASJ neurons, is insufficient for the elicitation of pathogen avoidance behavior. Instead, intestinal infection and bloating of the lumen, which depend on the virulence of P. aeruginosa, regulates both pathogen avoidance and aversive learning by modulating not only the DAF-7/TGF-β pathway but also the G-protein coupled receptor NPR-1 pathway, which also controls aerotaxis behavior. Modulation of these neuroendocrine pathways by intestinal infection serves as a systemic feedback that enables animals to avoid virulent bacteria. These results reveal how feedback from the intestine during infection can modulate the behavior, learning, and microbial perception of the host.
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