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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2004 Oct 26;101(43):15512-7. Epub 2004 Oct 18.

Feeding status and serotonin rapidly and reversibly modulate a Caenorhabditis elegans chemosensory circuit.

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Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Cancer Research, 149-7202 13th Street, Charlestown, MA 02129, USA.


Serotonin (5-HT) modulates synaptic efficacy in the nervous system of vertebrates and invertebrates. In the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, many behaviors are regulated by 5-HT levels, which are in turn regulated by the presence or absence of food. Here, we show that both food and 5-HT signaling modulate chemosensory avoidance response of octanol in C. elegans, and that this modulation is both rapid and reversible. Sensitivity to octanol is decreased when animals are off food or when 5-HT levels are decreased; conversely, sensitivity is increased when animals are on food or have increased 5-HT signaling. Laser microsurgery and behavioral experiments reveal that sensory input from different subsets of octanol-sensing neurons is selectively used, depending on stimulus strength, feeding status, and 5-HT levels. 5-HT directly targets at least one pair of sensory neurons, and 5-HT signaling requires the Galpha protein GPA-11. Glutamatergic signaling is required for response to octanol, and the GLR-1 glutamate receptor plays an important role in behavioral response off food but not on food. Our results demonstrate that 5-HT modulation of neuronal activity via G protein signaling underlies behavioral plasticity by rapidly altering the functional circuitry of a chemosensory circuit.

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