Fatty Acids and the Innate Immune System: A Study Infecting Caenorhabditis elegans with Pseudomonas aeruginosa

Head shot of Shankar Bhat

Name: Shankar A Bhat
Major: Biology
Advisor: Dr. Stephanie Strand

Fatty acids have been previously determined to be required for the activation of certain immune response genes in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. In the presence of gram-negative bacteria, C. elegans expresses immune response genes irg-1, irg-2, irg-3, and irg-4. This study was conducted with the intention of enhancing our understanding of the impacts fatty acids have on expression of these immune response genes. This study sought to compare oleate acid and gamma-linolenic acid which had previously only been studied separately. Nematodes were raised on standard E. coli OP50 lawns that were supplemented with oleate acid, gamma-linolenic acid, or a combination thereof. Nematodes were then transferred to lawns of the opportunistic pathogen, Pseudomonas aeruginosa (PA01), and survival was tracked over time. This study found that the worms fed with a double proportion of gamma-linolenic acid to oleate acid had the highest survival rates when exposed to PA01. Additionally, worms fed gamma-linolenic acid or an equal proportion of oleate acid to gamma-linolenic acid had higher irg-4 expression rates relative to control genes when in the presence of the pathogen. Through this research we found that gamma-linolenic acid may play a role in the accumulation of toxic material in the gut of C. elegans. Additionally, gamma-linolenic acid may influence the virulence of PA01. Future studies should investigate the exact influence gamma-linolenic acid has on bioaccumulation in the gut as well as the precise activation of immune response genes.

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Posted in Comments Enabled, Independent Study, Symposium 2022.

3 responses to “Fatty Acids and the Innate Immune System: A Study Infecting Caenorhabditis elegans with Pseudomonas aeruginosa”

  1. M Venkatesh says:

    Excellent research!

  2. Jennifer Faust says:

    Congratulations on completing two(!) I.S. projects, Shankar! Best wishes for you at Emory in your MPH program.

  3. Georgia Hopps-Weber says:

    Well done Shankar, what an interesting topic and great poster!