Oral immune priming with Bacillus thuringiensis induces a shift in the gene expression of Tribolium castaneum larvae.

Jenny M Greenwood, Barbara Milutinović, Robert Peuß, Sarah Behrens, Daniela Esser, Philip Rosenstiel, Hinrich Schulenburg, Joachim Kurtz
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BMC genomics
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The phenomenon of immune priming, i.e. enhanced protection following a secondary exposure to a pathogen, has now been demonstrated in a wide range of invertebrate species. Despite accumulating phenotypic evidence, knowledge of its mechanistic underpinnings is currently very limited. Here we used the system of the red flour beetle, Tribolium castaneum and the insect pathogen Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) to further our molecular understanding of the oral immune priming phenomenon. We addressed how ingestion of bacterial cues (derived from spore supernatants) of an orally pathogenic and non-pathogenic Bt strain affects gene expression upon later challenge exposure, using a whole-transcriptome sequencing approach.Whereas gene expression of individuals primed with the orally non-pathogenic strain showed minor changes to controls, we found that priming with the pathogenic strain induced regulation of a large set of distinct genes, many of which are known immune candidates. Intriguingly, the immune repertoire activated upon priming and subsequent challenge qualitatively differed from the one mounted upon infection with Bt without previous priming. Moreover, a large subset of priming-specific genes showed an inverse regulation compared to their regulation upon challenge only.Our data demonstrate that gene expression upon infection is strongly affected by previous immune priming. We hypothesise that this shift in gene expression indicates activation of a more targeted and efficient response towards a previously encountered pathogen, in anticipation of potential secondary encounter.