02 September 2014
C. elegans – a worm used as a model for many aspects of mammalian biology – has been seen moving in a new and mysterious way in the presence of a worm disease-causing bacterium. Worms swim singly in liquid until a type of Leucobacter is added, then they wriggle into a ‘worm-star’ formation (pictured). Once infected, their tails stick together and become knotted. Any adult worms trapped in the worm-star are unable to move and die, allowing growth of the infecting bacteria; however, baby worms occasionally make a quick get-away (bottom right) by autotomy or self-amputation, splitting their body in half. This is the first time that this mode of attack has been reported, and its mechanism of action is unknown. Discovering how this worm-trapping trickery works could provide insight into beating bacterial infection in humans.
Written by Katie Panteli