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J Neurosci. 2007 Jul 4;27(27):7174-82.

FMRFamide-like neuropeptides and mechanosensory touch receptor neurons regulate male sexual turning behavior in Caenorhabditis elegans.

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Laboratory of Genetics, School of Pharmacy, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin 53705, USA.


Caenorhabditis elegans male mating provides a powerful model to study the relationship between the nervous system, genes, and innate sexual behaviors. Male mating is the most complex behavior exhibited by the nematode C. elegans and involves the steps of response, backing, turning, vulva location, spicule insertion, and sperm transfer. Because neuropeptides are important neural regulators of many complex animal behaviors, we explored the function of the FMRFamide-like neuropeptide (flp) gene family in regulating male copulation. We found that peptidergic signaling mediated by FMRF-amide like neuropeptides (FLPs) FLP-8, FLP-10, FLP-12, and FLP-20 is required for the sensory transduction involved in male turning behavior. flp-8, flp-10, flp-12, and flp-20 mutant males significantly increase repetition of substep(s) of turning behavior compared with wild-type males. Genes controlling neuropeptide processing and secretion in general, including egl-3, egl-21, ida-1, and unc-31, are also required for inhibiting repetitive turning behavior. Neuropeptidergic signaling adjusts the repetitiveness of turning independently of serotonergic modulation of the timing of turning. Surprisingly, the mechanosensitive touch receptor neurons are found to be part of the neural circuitry regulating male turning behavior, indicating the existence of functional dimorphisms in the nervous system with regard to sex-specific behaviors.

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