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Bioessays. 1996 Mar;18(3):199-206.

Touch sensation in Caenorhabditis elegans.

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Department of Genetics and Cell Biology, University of Minnesota, St Paul, 55 USA.


The nematode C. elegans exhibits a variety of responses to touch. When specific sets of mechanosensory neurons are killed with a laser, specific touch responses are abolished. Many mutations that result in defective mechanosensation have been identified. Some of the mutations define genes that specify the fate of a set of mechanoreceptors called the touch cells, which mediate response to light touch to the body of the worm. Genes specifying touch cell fate appear to regulate genes that encode touch-cell differentiation proteins, including apparent subunits of a touch-cell-specific ion channel, rare mutant forms of which lead to swelling and lysis of the touch cells. Molecular attachments of the ion channel, both to extracellular matrix components and, intracellularly, to a special large-diameter microtubule, may be required for mechanical gating of the channel. A mechanoreceptor-interneuron-motorneuron reflex circuit for response to light touch has been proposed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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