The purine nucleoside phosphorylase pnp-1 regulates epithelial cell resistance to infection in C. elegans

Eillen Tecle, Crystal B. Chhan, Latisha Franklin, Ryan S. Underwood, Wendy Hanna-Rose, Emily R. Troemel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Intestinal epithelial cells are subject to attack by a diverse array of microbes, including intracellular as well as extracellular pathogens. While defense in epithelial cells can be triggered by pattern recognition receptor-mediated detection of microbe-associated molecular patterns, there is much to be learned about how they sense infection via perturbations of host physiology, which often occur during infection. A recently described host defense response in the nematode C. elegans called the Intracellular Pathogen Response (IPR) can be triggered by infection with diverse natural intracellular pathogens, as well as by perturbations to protein homeostasis. From a forward genetic screen, we identified the C. elegans ortholog of purine nucleoside phosphorylase pnp-1 as a negative regulator of IPR gene expression, as well as a negative regulator of genes induced by extracellular pathogens. Accordingly, pnp-1 mutants have resistance to both intracellular and extracellular pathogens. Metabolomics analysis indicates that C. elegans pnp-1 likely has enzymatic activity similar to its human ortholog, serving to convert purine nucleosides into free bases. Classic genetic studies have shown how mutations in human purine nucleoside phosphorylase cause immunodeficiency due to T-cell dysfunction. Here we show that C. elegans pnp-1 acts in intestinal epithelial cells to regulate defense. Altogether, these results indicate that perturbations in purine metabolism are likely monitored as a cue to promote defense against epithelial infection in the nematode C. elegans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1009350
JournalPLoS pathogens
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Virology


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