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Nat Commun. 2016 Jun 20;7:11957. doi: 10.1038/ncomms11957.

CRF-like receptor SEB-3 in sex-common interneurons potentiates stress handling and reproductive drive in C. elegans.

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Department of Biology, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Texas A&M University, 3258 TAMU, College Station, Texas 77843-3258, USA.


Environmental conditions can modulate innate behaviours. Although male Caenorhabditis elegans copulation can be perturbed in the presence of stress, the mechanisms underlying its decision to sustain copulation are unclear. Here we describe a mating interference assay, which quantifies the persistence of male C. elegans copulation in noxious blue light. We show that between copulations, the male escapes from blue light illumination at intensities over 370 μW mm(-2). This response is attenuated in mutants with constitutive activation of the corticotropin-releasing factor receptor family homologue SEB-3. We show that activation of this receptor causes sex-common glutamatergic lumbar ganglion interneurons (LUA) to potentiate downstream male-specific reproduction circuits, allowing copulatory behaviours to partially override the light-induced escape responses in the male. SEB-3 activation in LUA also potentiates copulation during mild starvation. We suggest that SEB-3 activation allows C. elegans to acclimate to the environment and thus continue to execute innate behaviours even under non-optimal conditions.

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