Galleria mellonella: A novel invertebrate model to distinguish intestinal symbionts from pathobionts

Anna Lange, Andrea Schäfer, Annika Bender, Alexander Steimle, Sina Beier, Raphael Parusel, Julia Stefanie Frick*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


Insects and mammals share evolutionary conserved innate immune responses to maintain intestinal homeostasis. We investigated whether the larvae of the greater wax moth Galleria mellonella may be used as an experimental organism to distinguish between symbiotic Bacteroides vulgatus and pathobiotic Escherichia coli, which are mammalian intestinal commensals. Oral application of the symbiont or pathobiont to G. Mellonella resulted in clearly distinguishable innate immune responses that could be verified by analyzing similar innate immune components in mice in vivo and in vitro. The differential innate immune responses were initiated by the recognition of bacterial components via pattern recognition receptors. The pathobiont detection resulted in increased expression of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species related genes as well as antimicrobial peptide gene expression. In contrast, the treatment/application with symbiotic bacteria led to weakened immune responses in both mammalian and insect models. As symbionts and pathobionts play a crucial role in development of inflammatory bowel diseases, we hence suggest G. Mellonella as a future replacement organism in inflammatory bowel disease research.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2114
JournalFrontiers in Immunology
Issue numberSEP
Publication statusPublished - 19 Sept 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Antimicrobial peptides
  • Innate immunity
  • Insect
  • Intestinal commensals
  • Pathobiont
  • Reactive oxygen species
  • Symbiont


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