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Cell. 1993 Aug 13;74(3):515-27.

Odorant-selective genes and neurons mediate olfaction in C. elegans.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Department of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge 02139.


Olfaction is a versatile and sensitive mechanism for detecting volatile odorants. We show that the nematode C. elegans detects many volatile chemicals, which can be attractants, repellents, or attractants at low concentrations and repellents at high concentrations. Through laser ablation, we have identified chemosensory neurons that detect volatile odorants. Chemotaxis to volatile odorants requires different sensory neurons from chemotaxis to water-soluble attractants, indicating that C. elegans might have senses that correspond to smell and taste, respectively. Single neurons have complex sensory properties, since six distinguishable volatile odorants are sensed by only two types of sensory neurons. Chemotaxis to subsets of volatile odorants is disrupted by mutations in the odr genes, which might be involved in odorant sensation or signal transduction.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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