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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2003 Aug 5;100(16):9560-5. Epub 2003 Jul 25.

Activity of the Caenorhabditis elegans UNC-86 POU transcription factor modulates olfactory sensitivity.

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Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, University of California, Irvine, CA 92697, USA.


The activity of transcription factors modulates several neural pathways that mediate complex behaviors. We describe here the role of the POU transcription factor UNC-86 in the olfactory behavior of Caenorhabditis elegans. unc-86-null mutants are defective in response to odor attractants but avoid odor repellents normally. Continuous UNC-86 activity is necessary for maintenance of odortaxis behavior; hyperactivation of UNC-86 by fusion to a VP16 activation domain dramatically enhances sensitivity to odor attractants and promotes odor-attractant adaptation. UNC-86 is not expressed in olfactory sensory neurons but is expressed throughout the life of the animal in the AIZ interneurons of the odorsensory pathway. We suggest that UNC-86 transcriptional activity regulates the expression of genes that mediate synaptic properties of AIZ and that hyperactive UNC-86::VP16 may enhance the expression of synaptic components to affect the capacity to analyze and process sensory information.

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