The aging process has been associated with numerous pathologies at the cellular, tissue, and organ level. Decline or loss of brain functions, including learning and memory, is one of the most devastating and feared aspects of aging. Learning and memory are fundamental processes by which animals adjust to environmental changes, evaluate various sensory signals based on context and experience, and make decisions to generate adaptive behaviors. Age-related memory impairment is an important phenotype of brain aging. Understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying age-related memory impairment is crucial for the development of therapeutic strategies that may eventually lead to the development of drugs to combat memory loss. Studies in invertebrate animal models have taught us much about the physiology of aging and its effects on learning and memory. In this review we survey recent progress relevant to conserved molecular pathways implicated in both aging and memory formation and consolidation.
Alzheimer’s disease; autophagy; dietary restriction; insulin/IGF-1 signaling; learning; mitochondria; neurodegeneration, TOR signaling
Elucidation of the molecular mechanisms regulating lipid storage and metabolism is essential for mitigating excess adiposity and obesity, which has been associated with increased prevalence of severe pathological conditions such as cardiovascular disorders and type II diabetes, worldwide. However, imaging fatty acid distribution and dynamics in vivo, at the cellular or organismal level is challenging. We developed a label-free method for visualizing lipid depositions in vivo, based on third harmonic generation (THG) microscopy. THG imaging requires a single pulsed-laser light source, alleviating the technical challenges of implementing coherent anti-Stokes Raman scattering spectroscopy (CARS) to detect fat stores in living cells. We demonstrate that THG can be used to efficiently and reliably visualize lipid droplets in Caenorhabditis elegans. Thus, THG microscopy offers a versatile alternative to fluorescence and dye-based approaches for lipid biology research.
Malfunctioning of the protein α-synuclein is critically involved in the demise of dopaminergic neurons relevant to Parkinson's disease. Nonetheless, the precise mechanisms explaining this pathogenic neuronal cell death remain elusive. Endonuclease G (EndoG) is a mitochondrially localized nuclease that triggers DNA degradation and cell death upon translocation from mitochondria to the nucleus. Here, we show that EndoG displays cytotoxic nuclear localization in dopaminergic neurons of human Parkinson-diseased patients, while EndoG depletion largely reduces α-synuclein-induced cell death in human neuroblastoma cells. Xenogenic expression of human α-synuclein in yeast cells triggers mitochondria-nuclear translocation of EndoG and EndoG-mediated DNA degradation through a mechanism that requires a functional kynurenine pathway and the permeability transition pore. In nematodes and flies, EndoG is essential for the α-synuclein-driven degeneration of dopaminergic neurons. Moreover, the locomotion and survival of α-synuclein-expressing flies is compromised, but reinstalled by parallel depletion of EndoG. In sum, we unravel a phylogenetically conserved pathway that involves EndoG as a critical downstream executor of α-synuclein cytotoxicity.
The mitochondrial pro-apoptotic nuclease Endonuclease G is a key downstream executor of α-synuclein neurotoxicity in different Parkinson's disease models.
α-synuclein; cell death; endonuclease G; mitochondria; Parkinson's disease
Death of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans involves a conserved necrotic cell death cascade which generates endogenous blue anthranilate fluorescence, allowing death to be visualized.
For cells the passage from life to death can involve a regulated, programmed transition. In contrast to cell death, the mechanisms of systemic collapse underlying organismal death remain poorly understood. Here we present evidence of a cascade of cell death involving the calpain-cathepsin necrosis pathway that can drive organismal death in Caenorhabditis elegans. We report that organismal death is accompanied by a burst of intense blue fluorescence, generated within intestinal cells by the necrotic cell death pathway. Such death fluorescence marks an anterior to posterior wave of intestinal cell death that is accompanied by cytosolic acidosis. This wave is propagated via the innexin INX-16, likely by calcium influx. Notably, inhibition of systemic necrosis can delay stress-induced death. We also identify the source of the blue fluorescence, initially present in intestinal lysosome-related organelles (gut granules), as anthranilic acid glucosyl esters—not, as previously surmised, the damage product lipofuscin. Anthranilic acid is derived from tryptophan by action of the kynurenine pathway. These findings reveal a central mechanism of organismal death in C. elegans that is related to necrotic propagation in mammals—e.g., in excitotoxicity and ischemia-induced neurodegeneration. Endogenous anthranilate fluorescence renders visible the spatio-temporal dynamics of C. elegans organismal death.
In the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, intestinal lysosome-related organelles (or “gut granules”) contain a bright blue fluorescent substance of unknown identity. This has similar spectral properties to lipofuscin, a product of oxidative damage known to accumulate with age in postmitotic mammalian cells. Blue fluorescence seems to increase in aging worm populations, and lipofuscin has been proposed to be the source. To analyze this further, we measure fluorescence levels after exposure to oxidative stress and during aging in individually tracked worms. Surprisingly, neither of these conditions increases fluorescence levels; instead blue fluorescence increases in a striking and rapid burst at death. Such death fluorescence (DF) also appears in young worms when killed, irrespective of age or cause of death. We chemically identify DF as anthranilic acid glucosyl esters derived from tryptophan, and not lipofuscin. In addition, we show that DF generation in the intestine is dependent upon the necrotic cell death cascade, previously characterized as a driver of neurodegeneration. We find that necrosis spreads in a rapid wave along the intestine by calcium influx via innexin ion channels, accompanied by cytosolic acidosis. Inhibition of necrosis pathway components can delay stress-induced death, supporting its role as a driver of organismal death. This necrotic cascade provides a model system to study neurodegeneration and organismal death.
Precise levels of specific neurotransmitters are required for appropriate neuronal functioning. The neurotransmitter dopamine is implicated in modulating behaviors, such as cognition, reward and memory. In the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, the release of dopamine during behavioral plasticity is in part modulated through an acid-sensing ion channel expressed in its eight dopaminergic neurons. A D2-like C. elegans dopamine receptor DOP-2 co-expresses along with a Gαi subunit (GPA-14) in the anterior deirid (ADE) pair of dopaminergic neurons.
In follow-up experiments to our recently reported in vitro physical interaction between DOP-2 and GPA-14, we have behaviorally characterized worms carrying deletion mutations in gpa-14 and/or dop-2. We found both mutants to display behavioral abnormalities in habituation as well as associative learning, and exogenous supply of dopamine was able to revert the observed behavioral deficits. The behavioral phenotypes of dop-2 and gpa-14 loss-of-function mutants were found to be remarkably similar, and we did not observe any cumulative defects in their double mutants.
Our results provide genetic and phenotypic support to our earlier in vitro results where we had shown that the DOP-2 dopamine receptor and the GPA-14 Gαi subunit physically interact with each other. Results from behavioral experiments presented here together with our previous in-vitro work suggests that the DOP-2 functions as a dopamine auto-receptor to modulate two types of learning, anterior touch habituation and chemosensory associative conditioning, through a G-protein complex that comprises GPA-14 as its Gα subunit.
C. elegans; Learning; Habituation; Memory; gpa-14; dop-2; Dopamine; Dopamine receptor; G-protein; Gα
Severe mitochondria deficiency leads to a number of devastating degenerative disorders, yet, mild mitochondrial dysfunction in different species, including the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, can have pro-longevity effects. This apparent paradox indicates that cellular adaptation to partial mitochondrial stress can induce beneficial responses, but how this is achieved is largely unknown. Complete absence of frataxin, the mitochondrial protein defective in patients with Friedreich's ataxia, is lethal in C. elegans, while its partial deficiency extends animal lifespan in a p53 dependent manner.
In this paper we provide further insight into frataxin control of C. elegans longevity by showing that a substantial reduction of frataxin protein expression is required to extend lifespan, affect sensory neurons functionality, remodel lipid metabolism and trigger autophagy. We find that Beclin and p53 genes are required to induce autophagy and concurrently reduce lipid storages and extend animal lifespan in response to frataxin suppression. Reciprocally, frataxin expression modulates autophagy in the absence of p53. Human Friedreich ataxia-derived lymphoblasts also display increased autophagy, indicating an evolutionarily conserved response to reduced frataxin expression.
In sum, we demonstrate a causal connection between induction of autophagy and lifespan extension following reduced frataxin expression, thus providing the rationale for investigating autophagy in the pathogenesis and treatment of Friedreich's ataxia and possibly other human mitochondria-associated disorders.
► Substantial fratxin protein decrease is required to extend lifespan in C. elegans ► Substantial fratxin protein decrease is required to trigger autophagy ► Life-extension correlates with reduced fat content and antioxidants induction ► Lifespan and fat content are inversely modulated by p53-regulated autophagy ► Autophagy induction is an evolutionary conserved response to frataxin deficiency
Aging; Nematode; Mitochondria; Frataxin; p53/cep-1; Autophagy; Fat
Spermidine is a naturally occurring polyamine involved in multiple biological processes, including DNA metabolism, autophagy and aging. Like other polyamines, spermidine is also indispensable for successful reproduction at several stages. However, a direct influence on the actual fertilization process, i.e., the fusion of an oocyte with a spermatocyte, remains uncertain. To explore this possibility, we established the mating process in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae as a model for fertilization in higher eukaryotes. During human fertilization, the sperm capacitates and the acrosome reaction is necessary for penetration of the oocyte. Similarly, sexually active yeasts form a protrusion called “shmoo” as a prerequisite for mating. In this study, we demonstrate that pheromone-induced shmoo formation requires spermidine. In addition, we show that spermidine is essential for mating in yeast as well as for egg fertilization in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. In both cases, this occurs independently from autophagy. In synthesis, we identify spermidine as an important mating component in unicellular and multicellular model organisms, supporting an unprecedented evolutionary conservation of the mechanisms governing fertilization-related cellular fusion.
Caenorhabditis elegans; spermidine; mating; fertilization; Saccharomyces cerevisiae; shmoo; autophagy; sexual reproduction
Macroautophagy is a cellular catabolic process that involves the sequestration of cytoplasmic constituents into double-membrane vesicles known as autophagosomes, which subsequently fuse with lysosomes, where they deliver their cargo for degradation. The main physiological role of autophagy is to recycle intracellular components, under conditions of nutrient deprivation, so as to supply cells with vital materials and energy. Selective autophagy also takes place in nutrient-rich conditions to rid the cell of damaged organelles or protein aggregates that would otherwise compromise cell viability. Mitophagy is a selective type of autophagy, whereby damaged or superfluous mitochondria are eliminated to maintain proper mitochondrial numbers and quality control. While mitophagy shares key regulatory factors with the general macroautophagy pathway, it also involves distinct steps, specific for mitochondrial elimination. Recent findings indicate that parkin and the phosphatase and tensin homolog-induced putative kinase protein 1 (PINK1), which have been implicated in the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, also regulate mitophagy and function to maintain mitochondrial homeostasis. Here, we survey the molecular mechanisms that govern the process of mitophagy and discuss its involvement in the onset and progression of neurodegenerative diseases during aging.
aging; autophagy; neuron; mitochondria; mitophagy; neurodegeneration; parkin; PINK1
The nervous system becomes increasingly vulnerable to insults and prone to dysfunction during aging. Age-related decline of neuronal function is manifested by the late onset of many neurodegenerative disorders, as well as by reduced signaling and processing capacity of individual neuron populations. Recent findings indicate that impairment of Ca2+ homeostasis underlies the increased susceptibility of neurons to damage, associated with the aging process. However, the impact of aging on Ca2+ homeostasis in neurons remains largely unknown. Here, we survey the molecular mechanisms that mediate neuronal Ca2+ homeostasis and discuss the impact of aging on their efficacy. To address the question of how aging impinges on Ca2+ homeostasis, we consider potential nodes through which mechanisms regulating Ca2+ levels interface with molecular pathways known to influence the process of aging and senescent decline. Delineation of this crosstalk would facilitate the development of interventions aiming to fortify neurons against age-associated functional deterioration and death by augmenting Ca2+ homeostasis.
endoplasmic reticulum; Golgi; long-term potentiation; ion channel; mitochondria; neurodegeneration; neurotransmitter; synaptic plasticity
Necrosis, one of the two main types of cell death, contributes critically in many devastating pathological conditions in human, including stroke, ischemia, trauma and neurodegenerative diseases. However, unlike apoptosis, the molecular mechanisms underlying necrotic cell death and neurodegeneration are poorly understood. Caenorhabditis elegans offers a powerful platform for a thorough and systematic dissection of the molecular basis of necrotic cell death. Similarly to humans, neuronal necrosis can be induced by several well-characterized genetic lesions and by adverse environmental conditions in the nematode. The availability of precisely-defined C. elegans neurodegeneration models provides a unique opportunity for comprehensive delineation of the cellular and molecular mechanisms mediating necrotic cell death. Through genetic dissection of such models, we recently uncovered an unexpected requirement for specific proteins involved in endocytosis and intracellular trafficking, in the execution of necrosis. Moreover, initiation of necrotic cell death is accompanied by a sharp increase in the formation of early and recycling endosomes, which subsequently disintegrate during the final stage of cell death. These findings implicate endocytic and intracellular trafficking processes in the cellular destruction during necrosis. Indeed, endocytosis synergizes with two other essential cellular processes, autophagy and lysosomal proteolysis to facilitate necrotic neurodegeneration. In this commentary, we consider the contribution of endocytosis and intracellular trafficking to cell injury and discuss the crosstalk between these processes and other molecular mechanisms that mediate necrosis.
autophagy; C. elegans; calcium homeostasis; calpain; clathrin; excitotoxicity; lysosomal proteolysis; necrosis
The acetylase inhibitor spermidine and the sirtuin-1 activator resveratrol disrupt the antagonistic network of acetylases and deacetylases that regulate autophagy.
Autophagy protects organelles, cells, and organisms against several stress conditions. Induction of autophagy by resveratrol requires the nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide–dependent deacetylase sirtuin 1 (SIRT1). In this paper, we show that the acetylase inhibitor spermidine stimulates autophagy independent of SIRT1 in human and yeast cells as well as in nematodes. Although resveratrol and spermidine ignite autophagy through distinct mechanisms, these compounds stimulate convergent pathways that culminate in concordant modifications of the acetylproteome. Both agents favor convergent deacetylation and acetylation reactions in the cytosol and in the nucleus, respectively. Both resveratrol and spermidine were able to induce autophagy in cytoplasts (enucleated cells). Moreover, a cytoplasm-restricted mutant of SIRT1 could stimulate autophagy, suggesting that cytoplasmic deacetylation reactions dictate the autophagic cascade. At doses at which neither resveratrol nor spermidine stimulated autophagy alone, these agents synergistically induced autophagy. Altogether, these data underscore the importance of an autophagy regulatory network of antagonistic deacetylases and acetylases that can be pharmacologically manipulated.
We describe a versatile optical projection tomography system for rapid three-dimensional imaging of microscopic specimens in vivo. Our tomographic setup eliminates the in xy and z strongly asymmetric resolution, resulting from optical sectioning in conventional confocal microscopy. It allows for robust, high resolution fluorescence as well as absorption imaging of live transparent invertebrate animals such as C. elegans. This system offers considerable advantages over currently available methods when imaging dynamic developmental processes and animal ageing; it permits monitoring of spatio-temporal gene expression and anatomical alterations with single-cell resolution, it utilizes both fluorescence and absorption as a source of contrast, and is easily adaptable for a range of small model organisms.
While specific signalling cascades involved in aging, such as the insulin/IGF-1 pathway, are well-described, the actual metabolic changes they elicit to prolong lifespan remain obscure. Nevertheless, the tuning of cellular metabolism towards maximal survival is the molecular basis of longevity. The eukaryotic mitochondrial prohibitin complex is a macromolecular structure at the inner mitochondrial membrane, implicated in several important cellular processes such as mitochondrial biogenesis and function, molecular signalling, replicative senescence, and cell death. Recent studies in C. elegans have revealed that prohibitin differentially influences aging by moderating fat metabolism and energy production, in response to both intrinsic signalling events and extrinsic cues. These findings indicate that prohibitin is a context-dependent modulator of longevity. The tight evolutionary conservation and ubiquitous expression of prohibitin proteins suggest a similar role for the mitochondrial prohibitin complex during aging in other organisms.
insulin; lipids; metabolism; mitochondria; stress
The DEG/ENaC (Degenerin/Epithelial Sodium Channel) protein family comprises related ion channel subunits from all metazoans, including humans. Members of this protein family play roles in several important biological processes such as transduction of mechanical stimuli, sodium re-absorption and blood pressure regulation. Several blocks of amino acid sequence are conserved in DEG/ENaC proteins, but structure/function relations in this channel class are poorly understood. Given the considerable experimental limitations associated with the crystallization of integral membrane proteins, knowledge-based modeling is often the only route towards obtaining reliable structural information. To gain insight into the structural characteristics of DEG/ENaC ion channels, we derived three-dimensional models of MEC-4 and UNC-8, based on the available crystal structures of ASIC1 (Acid Sensing Ion Channel 1). MEC-4 and UNC-8 are two DEG/ENaC family members involved in mechanosensation and proprioception respectively, in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. We used these models to examine the structural effects of specific mutations that alter channel function in vivo. The trimeric MEC-4 model provides insight into the mechanism by which gain-of-function mutations cause structural alterations that result in increased channel permeability, which trigger cell degeneration. Our analysis provides an introductory framework to further investigate the multimeric organization of the DEG/ENaC ion channel complex.
The application of optical projection tomography to in-vivo experiments is limited by specimen movement during the acquisition. We present a set of mathematical correction methods applied to the acquired data stacks to correct for movement in both directions of the image plane. These methods have been applied to correct experimental data taken from in-vivo optical projection tomography experiments in Caenorhabditis elegans. Successful reconstructions for both fluorescence and white light (absorption) measurements are shown. Since no difference between movement of the animal and movement of the rotation axis is made, this approach at the same time removes artifacts due to mechanical drifts and errors in the assumed center of rotation.
(100.6950) Tomographic image processing; (170.6960) Tomography; (110.3010) Image reconstruction techniques
autophagy has widely been conceived as a self-destructive mechanism that
causes cell death, accumulating evidence suggests that autophagy usually
mediates cytoprotection, thereby avoiding the apoptotic or necrotic demise
of stressed cells. Recent evidence produced by our groups demonstrates that
autophagy is also involved in pharmacological manipulations that increase
longevity. Exogenous supply of the polyamine spermidine can prolong the
lifespan of (while inducing autophagy in) yeast, nematodes and flies.
Similarly, resveratrol can trigger autophagy in cells from different
organisms, extend lifespan in nematodes, and ameliorate the fitness of
human cells undergoing metabolic stress. These beneficial effects are lost
when essential autophagy modulators are genetically or pharmacologically
inactivated, indicating that autophagy is required for the cytoprotective
and/or anti-aging effects of spermidine and resveratrol. Genetic and
functional studies indicate that spermidine inhibits histone acetylases,
while resveratrol activates the histone deacetylase Sirtuin 1 to confer
cytoprotection/longevity. Although it remains elusive whether the same
histones (or perhaps other nuclear or cytoplasmic proteins) act as the downstream
targets of spermidine and resveratrol, these results point to an essential
role of protein hypoacetylation in autophagy control and in the regulation
AMPK; Caenorhabditis elegans; IKK; mTOR; p53; Saccharomyces cerevisiae
The Genomes On Line Database (GOLD) is a comprehensive resource for centralized monitoring of genome and metagenome projects worldwide. Both complete and ongoing projects, along with their associated metadata, can be accessed in GOLD through precomputed tables and a search page. As of September 2009, GOLD contains information for more than 5800 sequencing projects, of which 1100 have been completed and their sequence data deposited in a public repository. GOLD continues to expand, moving toward the goal of providing the most comprehensive repository of metadata information related to the projects and their organisms/environments in accordance with the Minimum Information about a (Meta)Genome Sequence (MIGS/MIMS) specification. GOLD is available at: http://www.genomesonline.org and has a mirror site at the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, Crete, Greece, at: http://gold.imbb.forth.gr/
Multiple cellular stressors, including activation of the tumour suppressor p53, can stimulate autophagy. Here we show that knockout, knockdown or pharmacological inhibition of p53 can induce autophagy in human, mouse and nematode cells. Enhanced autophagy improved the survival of p53-deficient cancer cells under conditions of hypoxia and nutrient depletion, allowing them to maintain high ATP levels. Inhibition of p53 led to autophagy in enucleated cells, and cytoplasmic, not nuclear, p53 was able to repress the enhanced autophagy of p53-/- cells. Many different inducers of autophagy (for example, starvation, rapamycin and toxins affecting the endoplasmic reticulum) stimulated proteasome-mediated degradation of p53 through a pathway relying on the E3 ubiquitin ligase HDM2. Inhibition of p53 degradation prevented the activation of autophagy in several cell lines, in response to several distinct stimuli. These results provide evidence of a key signalling pathway that links autophagy to the cancer-associated dysregulation of p53.
Analysis of general and specific protein synthesis provides important information, relevant to cellular physiology and function. However, existing methodologies, involving metabolic labelling by incorporation of radioactive amino acids into nascent polypeptides, cannot be applied to monitor protein synthesis in specific cells or tissues, in live specimens. We have developed a novel approach for monitoring protein synthesis in specific cells or tissues, in vivo. Fluorescent reporter proteins such as GFP are expressed in specific cells and tissues of interest or throughout animals using appropriate promoters. Protein synthesis rates are assessed by following fluorescence recovery after partial photobleaching of the fluorophore at targeted sites. We evaluate the method by examining protein synthesis rates in diverse cell types of live, wild type or mRNA translation-defective Caenorhabditis elegans animals. Because it is non-invasive, our approach allows monitoring of protein synthesis in single cells or tissues with intrinsically different protein synthesis rates. Furthermore, it can be readily implemented in other organisms or cell culture systems.
The Genomes On Line Database (GOLD) is a comprehensive resource that provides information on genome and metagenome projects worldwide. Complete and ongoing projects and their associated metadata can be accessed in GOLD through pre-computed lists and a search page. As of September 2007, GOLD contains information on more than 2900 sequencing projects, out of which 639 have been completed and their sequence data deposited in the public databases. GOLD continues to expand with the goal of providing metadata information related to the projects and the organisms/environments towards the Minimum Information about a Genome Sequence’ (MIGS) guideline. GOLD is available at http://www.genomesonline.org and has a mirror site at the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, Crete, Greece at http://gold.imbb.forth.gr/
The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans responds to an impressive range of chemical, mechanical and thermal stimuli and is extensively used to investigate the molecular mechanisms that mediate chemosensation, mechanotransduction and thermosensation. The main behavioral output of these responses is manifested as alterations in animal locomotion. Monitoring and examination of such alterations requires tools to capture and quantify features of nematode movement.
In this paper, we introduce Nemo (nematode movement), a computationally efficient and robust two-dimensional object tracking algorithm for automated detection and analysis of C. elegans locomotion. This algorithm enables precise measurement and feature extraction of nematode movement components. In addition, we develop a Graphical User Interface designed to facilitate processing and interpretation of movement data. While, in this study, we focus on the simple sinusoidal locomotion of C. elegans, our approach can be readily adapted to handle complicated locomotory behaviour patterns by including additional movement characteristics and parameters subject to quantification.
Our software tool offers the capacity to extract, analyze and measure nematode locomotion features by processing simple video files. By allowing precise and quantitative assessment of behavioral traits, this tool will assist the genetic dissection and elucidation of the molecular mechanisms underlying specific behavioral responses.
Microarray analysis of the transcriptional response of C. elegans to four bacterial pathogens revealed that different infections trigger responses, some of which are common to all four pathogens, such as necrotic cell death, which has been associated with infection in humans.
There are striking similarities between the innate immune systems of invertebrates and vertebrates. Caenorhabditis elegans is increasingly used as a model for the study of innate immunity. Evidence is accumulating that C. elegans mounts distinct responses to different pathogens, but the true extent of this specificity is unclear. Here, we employ direct comparative genomic analyses to explore the nature of the host immune response.
Using whole-genome microarrays representing 20,334 genes, we analyzed the transcriptional response of C. elegans to four bacterial pathogens. Different bacteria provoke pathogen-specific signatures within the host, involving differential regulation of 3.5-5% of all genes. These include genes that encode potential pathogen-recognition and antimicrobial proteins. Additionally, variance analysis revealed a robust signature shared by the pathogens, involving 22 genes associated with proteolysis, cell death and stress responses. The expression of these genes, including those that mediate necrosis, is similarly altered following infection with three bacterial pathogens. We show that necrosis aggravates pathogenesis and accelerates the death of the host.
Our results suggest that in C. elegans, different infections trigger both specific responses and responses shared by several pathogens, involving immune defense genes. The response shared by pathogens involves necrotic cell death, which has been associated with infection in humans. Our results are the first indication that necrosis is important for disease susceptibility in C. elegans. This opens the way for detailed study of the means by which certain bacteria exploit conserved elements of host cell-death machinery to increase their effective virulence.
Necrotic cell death is defined by distinctive morphological characteristics that are displayed by dying cells (Walker, N.I., B.V. Harmon, G.C. Gobe, and J.F. Kerr. 1988. Methods Achiev. Exp. Pathol. 13:18–54). The cellular events that transpire during necrosis to generate these necrotic traits are poorly understood. Recent studies in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans show that cytoplasmic acidification develops during necrosis and is required for cell death (Syntichaki, P., C. Samara, and N. Tavernarakis. 2005. Curr. Biol. 15:1249–1254). However, the origin of cytoplasmic acidification remains elusive. We show that the alkalization of endosomal and lysosomal compartments ameliorates necrotic cell death triggered by diverse stimuli. In addition, mutations in genes that result in altered lysosomal biogenesis and function markedly affect neuronal necrosis. We used a genetically encoded fluorescent marker to follow lysosome fate during neurodegeneration in vivo. Strikingly, we found that lysosomes fuse and localize exclusively around a swollen nucleus. In the advanced stages of cell death, the nucleus condenses and migrates toward the periphery of the cell, whereas green fluorescent protein–labeled lysosomal membranes fade, indicating lysosomal rupture. Our findings demonstrate a prominent role for lysosomes in cellular destruction during necrotic cell death, which is likely conserved in metazoans.