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EMBO J. 2004 Jan 28;23(2):473-82. Epub 2004 Jan 22.

Dopamine modulates the plasticity of mechanosensory responses in Caenorhabditis elegans.

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Departments of Psychiatry, Pharmacology, Institute of Medical Science, University of Toronto & Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto, Canada.


Dopamine-modulated behaviors, including information processing and reward, are subject to behavioral plasticity. Disruption of these behaviors is thought to support drug addictions and psychoses. The plasticity of dopamine-mediated behaviors, for example, habituation and sensitization, are not well understood at the molecular level. We show that in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, a D1-like dopamine receptor gene (dop-1) modulates the plasticity of mechanosensory behaviors in which dopamine had not been implicated previously. A mutant of dop-1 displayed faster habituation to nonlocalized mechanical stimulation. This phenotype was rescued by the introduction of a wild-type copy of the gene. The dop-1 gene is expressed in mechanosensory neurons, particularly the ALM and PLM neurons. Selective expression of the dop-1 gene in mechanosensory neurons using the mec-7 promoter rescues the mechanosensory deficit in dop-1 mutant animals. The tyrosine hydroxylase-deficient C. elegans mutant (cat-2) also displays these specific behavioral deficits. These observations provide genetic evidence that dopamine signaling modulates behavioral plasticity in C. elegans.

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