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1.  Drosophila EGFR pathway coordinates stem cell proliferation and gut remodeling following infection 
BMC Biology  2010;8:152.
Gut homeostasis is central to whole organism health, and its disruption is associated with a broad range of pathologies. Following damage, complex physiological events are required in the gut to maintain proper homeostasis. Previously, we demonstrated that ingestion of a nonlethal pathogen, Erwinia carotovora carotovora 15, induces a massive increase in stem cell proliferation in the gut of Drosophila. However, the precise cellular events that occur following infection have not been quantitatively described, nor do we understand the interaction between multiple pathways that have been implicated in epithelium renewal.
To understand the process of infection and epithelium renewal in more detail, we performed a quantitative analysis of several cellular and morphological characteristics of the gut. We observed that the gut of adult Drosophila undergoes a dynamic remodeling in response to bacterial infection. This remodeling coordinates the synthesis of new enterocytes, their proper morphogenesis and the elimination of damaged cells through delamination and anoikis. We demonstrate that one signaling pathway, the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) pathway, is key to controlling each of these steps through distinct functions in intestinal stem cells and enterocytes. The EGFR pathway is activated by the EGF ligands, Spitz, Keren and Vein, the latter being induced in the surrounding visceral muscles in part under the control of the Janus kinase/signal transducer and activator of transcription (JAK/STAT) pathway. Additionally, the EGFR pathway synergizes with the JAK/STAT pathway in stem cells to promote their proliferation. Finally, we show that the EGFR pathway contributes to gut morphogenesis through its activity in enterocytes and is required to properly coordinate the delamination and anoikis of damaged cells. This function of the EGFR pathway in enterocytes is key to maintaining homeostasis, as flies lacking EGFR are highly susceptible to infection.
This study demonstrates that restoration of normal gut morphology following bacterial infection is a more complex phenomenon than previously described. Maintenance of gut homeostasis requires the coordination of stem cell proliferation and differentiation, with the incorporation and morphogenesis of new cells and the expulsion of damaged enterocytes. We show that one signaling pathway, the EGFR pathway, is central to all these stages, and its activation at multiple steps could synchronize the complex cellular events leading to gut repair and homeostasis.
PMCID: PMC3022776  PMID: 21176204
2.  Contributions of gut bacteria to Bacillus thuringiensis-induced mortality vary across a range of Lepidoptera 
BMC Biology  2009;7:11.
Gut microbiota contribute to the health of their hosts, and alterations in the composition of this microbiota can lead to disease. Previously, we demonstrated that indigenous gut bacteria were required for the insecticidal toxin of Bacillus thuringiensis to kill the gypsy moth, Lymantria dispar. B. thuringiensis and its associated insecticidal toxins are commonly used for the control of lepidopteran pests. A variety of factors associated with the insect host, B. thuringiensis strain, and environment affect the wide range of susceptibilities among Lepidoptera, but the interaction of gut bacteria with these factors is not understood. To assess the contribution of gut bacteria to B. thuringiensis susceptibility across a range of Lepidoptera we examined larval mortality of six species in the presence and absence of their indigenous gut bacteria. We then assessed the effect of feeding an enteric bacterium isolated from L. dispar on larval mortality following ingestion of B. thuringiensis toxin.
Oral administration of antibiotics reduced larval mortality due to B. thuringiensis in five of six species tested. These included Vanessa cardui (L.), Manduca sexta (L.), Pieris rapae (L.) and Heliothis virescens (F.) treated with a formulation composed of B. thuringiensis cells and toxins (DiPel), and Lymantria dispar (L.) treated with a cell-free formulation of B. thuringiensis toxin (MVPII). Antibiotics eliminated populations of gut bacteria below detectable levels in each of the insects, with the exception of H. virescens, which did not have detectable gut bacteria prior to treatment. Oral administration of the Gram-negative Enterobacter sp. NAB3, an indigenous gut resident of L. dispar, restored larval mortality in all four of the species in which antibiotics both reduced susceptibility to B. thuringiensis and eliminated gut bacteria, but not in H. virescens. In contrast, ingestion of B. thuringiensis toxin (MVPII) following antibiotic treatment significantly increased mortality of Pectinophora gossypiella (Saunders), which was also the only species with detectable gut bacteria that lacked a Gram-negative component. Further, mortality of P. gossypiella larvae reared on diet amended with B. thuringiensis toxin and Enterobacter sp. NAB3 was generally faster than with B. thuringiensis toxin alone.
This study demonstrates that in some larval species, indigenous gut bacteria contribute to B. thuringiensis susceptibility. Moreover, the contribution of enteric bacteria to host mortality suggests that perturbations caused by toxin feeding induce otherwise benign gut bacteria to exert pathogenic effects. The interaction between B. thuringiensis and the gut microbiota of Lepidoptera may provide a useful model with which to identify the factors involved in such transitions.
PMCID: PMC2653032  PMID: 19261175

Results 1-2 (2)