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Cell. 2001 Dec 14;107(6):777-88.

Regulation of distinct muscle behaviors controls the C. elegans male's copulatory spicules during mating.

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


We demonstrate through cell ablation, molecular genetic, and pharmacological approaches that during C. elegans male mating behavior, the male inserts his copulatory spicules into the hermaphrodite by regulating periodic and prolonged spicule muscle contractions. Distinct cholinergic neurons use different ACh receptors and calcium channels in the spicule muscles to mediate these contractile behaviors. The PCB and PCC sensory neurons facilitate periodic contraction through muscle-encoded UNC-68 ryanodine receptor calcium channels. The SPC motor neurons trigger prolonged contraction through EGL-19 L-type voltage-gated calcium channels. The male gonad then lengthens the duration of EGL-19-mediated prolonged muscle contraction. This regulation of muscle contraction provides a paradigm to explain how animals initiate, monitor, and maintain a behavioral motor program.

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