Microbial Colonization Activates an Immune Fight-and-Flight Response via Neuroendocrine Signaling

Jogender Singh, Alejandro Aballay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


The ability to distinguish harmful and beneficial microbes is critical for the survival of an organism. Here, we show that bloating of the intestinal lumen of Caenorhabditis elegans caused by microbial colonization elicits a microbial aversion behavior. Bloating of the intestinal lumen also activates a broad innate immune response, even in the absence of bacterial pathogens or live bacteria. Neuroendocrine pathway genes are upregulated by intestinal bloating and are required for microbial aversion behavior. We propose that microbial colonization and bloating of the intestine may be perceived as a danger signal that activates an immune fight-and-flight response. These results reveal how inputs from the intestine can aid in the recognition of a broad range of microbes and modulate host behavior via neuroendocrine signaling. Singh and Aballay describe a mechanism by which a fight-and-flight response against pathogenic microbes is activated. They show that in C. elegans microbial colonization induces bloating of the intestinal lumen, which enhances the expression of innate immune genes and neuroendocrine pathway genes required for the elicitation of a microbial aversion behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)89-99.e4
JournalDevelopmental Cell
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 8 2019


  • C. elegans
  • daf-7
  • defecation motor program
  • eat-2
  • innate immunity
  • microbial colonization
  • neuroendocrine
  • npr-1
  • pathogen avoidance behavior
  • unc-25

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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