Yersinia pestis kills Caenorhabditis elegans by a biofilm-independent process that involves novel virulence factors

Katie L. Styer, Gregory W. Hopkins, Sara Schesser Bartra, Gregory V. Plano, Richard Frothingham, Alejandro Aballay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

31 Scopus citations


It is known that Yersinia pestis kills Caenorhabditis elegans by a biofilm-dependent mechanism that is similar to the mechanism used by the pathogen to block food intake in the flea vector. Using Y. pestis KIM5, which lacks the genes that are required for biofilm formation, we show that Y. pestis can kill C. elegans by a biofilm-independent mechanism that correlates with the accumulation of the pathogen in the intestine. We used this novel Y. pestis -C. elegans pathogenesis system to show that previously known and unknown virulence-related genes are required for full virulence in C. elegans. Six Y. pestis mutants with insertions in genes that are not related to virulence before were isolated using C. elegans. One of the six mutants carried an insertion in a novel virulence gene and showed significantly reduced virulence in a mouse model of Y. pestis pathogenesis. Our results indicate that the Y. pestis -C. elegans pathogenesis system that is described here can be used to identify and study previously uncharacterized Y. pestis gene products required for virulence in mammalian systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)992-997
Number of pages6
JournalEMBO Reports
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2005



  • Forward genetics
  • Host-pathogen interactions
  • Innate immunity
  • Plaque
  • Virulence factors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Cell Biology

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