Temperature Sensing by an Olfactory Neuron in a Circuit Controlling Behavior of C. elegans

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Science  09 May 2008:
Vol. 320, Issue 5877, pp. 803-807
DOI: 10.1126/science.1148922

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Temperature is an unavoidable environmental cue that affects the metabolism and behavior of any creature on Earth, yet how animals perceive temperature is poorly understood. The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans “memorizes” temperatures, and this stored information modifies its subsequent migration along a temperature gradient. We show that the olfactory neuron designated AWC senses temperature. Calcium imaging revealed that AWC responds to temperature changes and that response thresholds differ depending on the temperature to which the animal was previously exposed. In the mutant with impaired heterotrimeric guanine nucleotide–binding protein (G protein)–mediated signaling, AWC was hyperresponsive to temperature, whereas the AIY interneuron (which is postsynaptic to AWC) was hyporesponsive to temperature. Thus, temperature sensation exhibits a robust influence on a neural circuit controlling a memory-regulated behavior.

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