Screening in planarians identifies MORN2 as a key component in LC3-associated phagocytosis and resistance to bacterial infection

Abnave P, Mottola G, Gimenez G, Boucherit N, Trouplin V, Torre C, Conti F, Ben Amara A, Lepolard C, Djian B, Hamaoui D, Mettouchi A, Kumar A, Pagnotta S, Bonatti S, Lepidi H, Salvetti A, Abi-Rached L, Lemichez E, Mege JL, Ghigo E

Cell Host Microbe 2014 Sep;16(3):338-50


PMID: 25211076

Dugesia japonica planarian flatworms are naturally exposed to various microbes but typically survive this challenge. We show that planarians eliminate bacteria pathogenic to Homo sapiens, Caenorhabditis elegans, and/or Drosophila melanogaster and thus represent a model to identify innate resistance mechanisms. Whole-transcriptome analysis coupled with RNAi screening of worms infected with Staphylococcus aureus or Legionella pneumophila identified 18 resistance genes with nine human orthologs, of which we examined the function of MORN2. Human MORN2 facilitates phagocytosis-mediated restriction of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, L. pneumophila, and S. aureus in macrophages. MORN2 promotes the recruitment of LC3, an autophagy protein also involved in phagocytosis, to M. tuberculosis-containing phagosomes and subsequent maturation to degradative phagolysosomes. MORN2-driven trafficking of M. tuberculosis to single-membrane, LC3-positive compartments requires autophagy-related proteins Atg5 and Beclin-1, but not Ulk-1 and Atg13, highlighting the importance of MORN2 in LC3-associated phagocytosis. These findings underscore the value of studying planarian defenses to identify immune factors.