Caenorhabditis elegans: A Genetic Guide to Parasitic Nematode Biology


  • D. McK Bird
  • C. H. Opperman


The advent of parasite genome sequencing projects, as well as an increase in biology-directed gene discovery, promises to reveal genes encoding many of the key molecules required for nematode-host interactions. However, distinguishing parasitism genes from those merely required for nematode viability remains a substantial challenge. Although this will ultimately require a functional test in the host or parasite, the free-living nematode Caenorhabditis elegans can be exploited as a heterologous system to determine function of candidate parasitism genes. Studies of C. elegans also have revealed genetic networks, such as the dauer pathway, that may also be important adaptations for parasitism. As a more directed means of identifying parasitism traits, we developed classical genetics for Heterodera glycines and have used this approach to map genes conferring host resistance-breaking phenotypes. It is likely that the C. elegans and H. glycines genomes will be at least partially syntenic, thus permitting predictive physical mapping of H. glycines genes of interest. Key words: Ancylostoma caninum, Caenorhabditis elegans, dauer larva, genetics, Heterodera glycines, Meloidogyne incognita, molecular nematology, nematode, parasitism, synteny.