Dopamine-dependent biphasic behaviour under 'deep diving' conditions in Caenorhabditis elegans

Inbar Kirshenboim, Ben Aviner, Eyal Itskovits, Alon Zaslaver, Limor Broday*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Underwater divers are susceptible to neurological risks due to their exposure to increased pressure. Absorption of elevated partial pressure of inert gases such as helium and nitrogen may lead to nitrogen narcosis. Although the symptoms of nitrogen narcosis are known, the molecular mechanisms underlying these symptoms have not been elucidated. Here, we examined the behaviour of the soil nematode Caenorhabditis elegans under scuba diving conditions. We analysed wild-type animals and mutants in the dopamine pathway under hyperbaric conditions, using several gas compositions and under varying pressure levels. We found that the animals changed their speed on a flat bacterial surface in response to pressure in a biphasic mode that depended on dopamine. Dopamine-deficient cat-2 mutant animals did not exhibit a biphasic response in high pressure, while the extracellular accumulation of dopamine in dat-1 mutant animals mildly influenced this response. Our data demonstrate that in C. elegans, similarly to mammalian systems, dopamine signalling is involved in the response to high pressure. This study establishes C. elegans as a powerful system to elucidate the molecular mechanisms that underly nitrogen toxicity in response to high pressure.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number0128
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1946
StatePublished - 10 Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.


  • C. elegans
  • cat-2
  • dat-1
  • dopamine
  • hyperbaric chamber
  • nitrogen narcosis


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