Research ArticleMICROBIOLOGY

A parental transcriptional response to microsporidia infection induces inherited immunity in offspring

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Science Advances  05 May 2021:
Vol. 7, no. 19, eabf3114
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abf3114

Abstract

Parental infection can result in the production of offspring with enhanced immunity phenotypes. Critically, the mechanisms underlying inherited immunity are poorly understood. Here, we show that Caenorhabditis elegans infected with the intracellular microsporidian parasite N. parisii produce progeny that are resistant to microsporidia infection. We determine the kinetics of the response and show that intergenerational immunity prevents host-cell invasion by Nematocida parisii and enhances survival to the bacterial pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa. We demonstrate that immunity is induced by the parental transcriptional response to infection, which can be mimicked through maternal somatic depletion of PALS-22 and the retinoblastoma protein ortholog, LIN-35. We find that other biotic and abiotic stresses (viral infection and cadmium exposure) that induce a similar transcriptional response as microsporidia also induce immunity in progeny. Together, our results reveal how a parental transcriptional signal can be induced by distinct stimuli and protect offspring against multiple classes of pathogens.

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