Mini Review ARTICLE

Front. Genet., 07 August 2013 | http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fgene.2013.00151

The mysterious case of the C. elegans gut granule: death fluorescence, anthranilic acid and the kynurenine pathway

  • Institute of Healthy Ageing, and Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment, University College London, London, UK

Gut granules are lysosome-like organelles with acidic interiors that are found in large numbers within the intestine of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. They are particularly prominent when viewed under ultraviolet light, which causes them to emit intense blue fluorescence. Yet the function of these large and abundant organelles in this heavily-studied model organism remains unclear. One possibility is that they serve as storage organelles, for example of zinc. A new clue to gut granule function is the identification of the blue fluorescent material that they contain as a glycosylated form of anthranilic acid, which is derived from tryptophan by action of the kynurenine pathway. This compound can also serve a surprising role as a natural, endogenous marker of organismal death.

Keywords: aging, C. elegans, death fluorescence, gut granule, kynurenine, lipofuscin, organismal death, tryptophan

Citation: Coburn C and Gems D (2013) The mysterious case of the C. elegans gut granule: death fluorescence, anthranilic acid and the kynurenine pathway. Front. Genet. 4:151. doi: 10.3389/fgene.2013.00151

Received: 30 May 2013; Accepted: 21 July 2013;
Published online: 07 August 2013.

Edited by:

Elena G. Pasyukova, Institute of Molecular Genetics of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Russia

Reviewed by:

Di Chen, Nanjing University, China
Shin Murakami, Touro University California, USA
Arjumand Ghazi, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, USA

Copyright: © 2013 Coburn and Gems. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: David Gems, Institute of Healthy Ageing, and Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment, University College London, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT, UK e-mail: david.gems@ucl.ac.uk