The Caenorhabditis elegans interneuron ALA is (also) a high-threshold mechanosensor

Jarred Sanders, Stanislav Nagy, Graham Fetterman, Charles Wright, Millet Treinin, David Biron*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: To survive dynamic environments, it is essential for all animals to appropriately modulate their behavior in response to various stimulus intensities. For instance, the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans suppresses the rate of egg-laying in response to intense mechanical stimuli, in a manner dependent on the mechanosensory neurons FLP and PVD. We have found that the unilaterally placed single interneuron ALA acted as a high-threshold mechanosensor, and that it was required for this protective behavioral response. Results: ALA was required for the inhibition of egg-laying in response to a strong (picking-like) mechanical stimulus, characteristic of routine handling of the animals. Moreover, ALA did not respond physiologically to less intense touch stimuli, but exhibited distinct physiological responses to anterior and posterior picking-like touch, suggesting that it could distinguish between spatially separated stimuli. These responses required neither neurotransmitter nor neuropeptide release from potential upstream neurons. In contrast, the long, bilaterally symmetric processes of ALA itself were required for producing its physiological responses; when they were severed, responses to stimuli administered between the cut and the cell body were unaffected, while responses to stimuli administered posterior to the cut were abolished. Conclusion: C. elegans neurons are typically classified into three major groups: sensory neurons with specialized sensory dendrites, interneurons, and motoneurons with neuromuscular junctions. Our findings suggest that ALA can autonomously sense intense touch and is thus a dual-function neuron, i.e., an interneuron as well as a novel high-threshold mechanosensor.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number156
JournalBMC Neuroscience
Volume14
DOIs
StatePublished - 17 Dec 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Some of the strains used in this study were provided by the Caenorhabditis Genetics Center, which is funded by the NIH Office of Research Infrastructure Programs (g0072ant no. P40 OD010440). This work was supported by the NIH Training Grant 2T32GM007197-37 (JS), the Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Award at the Scientific Interface (DB) and the Searle Scholars Program (DB).

Keywords

  • Mechanosensation
  • Neuroethology
  • Physiology

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