Research Summary

Regulation of innate immune responses and longevity by the nervous system in Caenorhabditis elegans

Research in human and model organisms in recent past has indicated that the nervous system can regulate immune responses. Research in Caenorhabditiselegans, a roundworm, has shown that specific neurons can regulate immune responses to microbial pathogens. More importantly, we have identified specific G protein coupled receptors in the nervous system that can regulate immune responses. Some of the neurons can also affect longevity. A common link between longevity and immunity exists at the neuronal level. Stress signaling pathways are regulated by the nervous system, and they in turn can regulate both longevity and immune responses. 

Thus, we hypothesize that C. elegans utilizes sensory receptors in the nervous system to perceive cues related to infection, nutrients, hormones etc. to initiate longevity or immune signals in the organism. 

Our key goals are:
• Demonstrate that neurons in the sensory organ of C. elegans can differentiate between infections with different    microbial pathogens.
• Investigate the role of sensory neurons in regulation of longevity and immunity to pathogens.
• Identify neuronal sensory receptors (G protein coupled receptors and guanylylcyclases) as regulators of    longevity and immunity with a long-term view to use them as targets of therapeutic manipulation. 

Figure Legend: Arrestin expression in the nervous system of Caenorhabditis elegans