The Web of Life (22-3-8) The Nematode & Its Killer Bacteria

 The Nematode & Its Killer Bacteria

Microbial populations stochastically generate variants with strikingly different properties, such as virulence or avirulence and antibiotic tolerance or sensitivity. ~ Indian bacteriologist Vishal Somvanshi et al

Heterorhabditis bacteriophora is a nematode that infects insects. Nestled inside it is Photorhabdus luminescens, a bioluminescent bacterium that is an accomplice to its host in eating insects from the inside out.

A juvenile nematode penetrates an insect victim, whereupon it vomits its intestinal symbionts into the insect’s body cavity (hemocoel).

Once outside the worm and inside the insect, the bacteria grow exponentially and secrete potent insecticidal toxins. P. luminescens prepares the insect for nematode reproduction by producing helpful proteins, as well as antimicrobials that defend the insect cadaver from its own competitors.

The bacteria transform from tiny benign mutualist inside the nematode into an engorged pathogenic insect slayer by flipping a genetic switch.