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PLoS One. 2019 May 13;14(5):e0216417. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0216417. eCollection 2019.

Dopamine-dependent, swimming-induced paralysis arises as a consequence of loss of function mutations in the RUNX transcription factor RNT-1.

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Department of Pharmacology, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, TN, United States of America.
Department of Biomedical Science, Charles E. Schmidt College of Science, Florida Atlantic University, Jupiter, FL United States of America.
Department of Life and Physical Sciences, Fisk University, Nashville, TN, United States of America.
Brain Institute, Florida Atlantic University, Jupiter, FL, United States of America.


Dopamine (DA) is a neurotransmitter with actions across phylogeny that modulate core behaviors such as motor activity, reward, attention, and cognition. Perturbed DA signaling in humans is associated with multiple disorders, including addiction, ADHD, schizophrenia, and Parkinson's disease. The presynaptic DA transporter exerts powerful control on DA signaling by efficient clearance of the neurotransmitter following release. As in vertebrates, Caenorhabditis elegans DAT (DAT-1) constrains DA signaling and loss of function mutations in the dat-1 gene result in slowed crawling on solid media and swimming-induced paralysis (Swip) in water. Previously, we identified a mutant line, vt34, that exhibits robust DA-dependent Swip. vt34 exhibits biochemical and behavioral phenotypes consistent with reduced DAT-1 function though vt34; dat-1 double mutants exhibit an enhanced Swip phenotype, suggesting contributions of the vt34-associated mutation to additional mechanisms that lead to excess DA signaling. SNP mapping and whole genome sequencing of vt34 identified the site of the molecular lesion in the gene B0412.2 that encodes the Runx transcription factor ortholog RNT-1. Unlike dat-1 animals, but similar to other loss of function rnt-1 mutants, vt34 exhibits altered male tail morphology and reduced body size. Deletion mutations in both rnt-1 and the bro-1 gene, which encodes a RNT-1 binding partner also exhibit Swip. Both vt34 and rnt-1 mutations exhibit reduced levels of dat-1 mRNA as well as the tyrosine hydroxylase ortholog cat-2. Although reporter studies indicate that rnt-1 is expressed in DA neurons, its re-expression in DA neurons of vt34 animals fails to fully rescue Swip. Moreover, as shown for vt34, rnt-1 mutation exhibits additivity with dat-1 in generating Swip, as do rnt-1 and bro-1 mutations, and vt34 exhibits altered capacity for acetylcholine signaling at the neuromuscular junction. Together, these findings identify a novel role for rnt-1 in limiting DA neurotransmission and suggest that loss of RNT-1 may disrupt function of both DA neurons and body wall muscle to drive Swip.

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Conflict of interest statement

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

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