The DBL-1/TGF-β signaling pathway tailors behavioral and molecular host responses to a variety of bacteria in Caenorhabditis elegans
Generating specific, robust protective responses to different bacteria is vital for animal survival. Here, we address the role of transforming growth factor β (TGF-β) member DBL-1 in regulating signature host defense responses in Caenorhabditis elegans to human opportunistic Gram-negative and Gram-positive pathogens. Canonical DBL-1 signaling is required to suppress avoidance behavior in response to Gram-negative, but not Gram-positive bacteria. We propose that in the absence of DBL-1, animals perceive some bacteria as more harmful. Animals activate DBL-1 pathway activity in response to Gram-negative bacteria and strongly repress it in response to select Gram-positive bacteria, demonstrating bacteria-responsive regulation of DBL-1 signaling. DBL-1 signaling differentially regulates expression of target innate immunity genes depending on the bacterial exposure. These findings highlight a central role for TGF-β in tailoring a suite of bacteria-specific host defenses.