Effector and regulator: Diverse functions of C. elegans C-type lectin-like domain proteins

Barbara Pees, Wentao Yang, Anke Kloock, Carola Petersen, Lena Peters, Li Fan, Meike Friedrichsen, Sabrina Butze, Alejandra Zárate-Potes, Hinrich Schulenburg, Katja Dierking

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


n C. elegans, 283 clec genes encode a highly diverse family of C-type lectin-like domain (CTLD) proteins. Since vertebrate CTLD proteins have characterized functions in defense responses against pathogens and since expression of C. elegans clec genes is pathogen-dependent, it is generally assumed that clec genes function in C. elegans immune defenses. However, little is known about the relative contribution and exact function of CLEC proteins in C. elegans immunity. Here, we focused on the C. elegans clec gene clec-4, whose expression is highly upregulated by pathogen infection, and its paralogs clec-41 and clec-42. We found that, while mutation of clec-4 resulted in enhanced resistance to the Gram-positive pathogen Bacillus thuringiensis MYBt18247 (Bt247), inactivation of clec-41 and clec-42 by RNAi enhanced susceptibility to Bt247. Further analyses revealed that enhanced resistance of clec-4 mutants to Bt247 was due to an increase in feeding cessation on the pathogen and consequently a decrease in pathogen load. Moreover, clec-4 mutants exhibited feeding deficits also on non-pathogenic bacteria that were in part reflected in the clec-4 gene expression profile, which overlapped with gene sets affected by starvation or mutation in nutrient sensing pathways. However, loss of CLEC-4 function only mildly affected life-history traits such as fertility, indicating that clec-4 mutants are not subjected to dietary restriction. While CLEC-4 function appears to be associated with the regulation of feeding behavior, we show that CLEC-41 and CLEC-42 proteins likely function as bona fide immune effector proteins that have bacterial binding and antimicrobial capacities. Together, our results exemplify functional diversification within clec gene paralogs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-25
Number of pages25
JournalPLoS Pathogens
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2021


  • Gastrointestinal tract
  • Caenorhabditis elegans
  • Pathogens
  • Bacterial pathogens
  • Escherichia coli
  • RNA interference
  • Gene expression
  • Immune system proteins


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