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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2002 Feb 5;99(3):1598-603. Epub 2002 Jan 29.

Evidence of a mate-finding cue in the hermaphrodite nematode Caenorhabditis elegans.

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  • 1Division of Biology and Howard Hughes Medical Institute, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91125, USA.


When males of the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans come into association with their hermaphroditic counterparts they cease foraging behavior and begin to mate. Here we detail several assays used to demonstrate that a diffusible cue is correlated with this process. This cue is sexually dimorphic, given off only by the hermaphrodite and eliciting a response only in the male. Males are attracted to, reverse direction of movement frequently, and remain in regions of agar conditioned with hermaphrodites. From our studies we suggest a form of kinesis that works by attracting males to their mating partners from a distance and functions, once males arrive, in holding attracted males in close proximity. The hermaphrodite vulva is not required for the cue. Males from general sensory mutants osm-5 and osm-6 fail to respond to the cue, whereas male-specific mutants lov-1 and pkd-2 respond. Finally, that males from multiple isolates of C. elegans also respond similarly to this cue indicates that this cue is robust and has been maintained during recent evolution.

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