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Vasopressin/Oxytocin-Related Signaling Regulates Gustatory Associative Learning in C. elegans

Science  26 Oct 2012:
Vol. 338, Issue 6106, pp. 543-545
DOI: 10.1126/science.1226860

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Abstract

Vasopressin- and oxytocin-related neuropeptides are key regulators of animal physiology, including water balance and reproduction. Although these neuropeptides also modulate social behavior and cognition in mammals, the mechanism for influencing behavioral plasticity and the evolutionary origin of these effects are not well understood. Here, we present a functional vasopressin- and oxytocin-like signaling system in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. Through activation of its receptor NTR-1, a vasopressin/oxytocin-related neuropeptide, designated nematocin, facilitates the experience-driven modulation of salt chemotaxis, a type of gustatory associative learning in C. elegans. Our study suggests that vasopressin and oxytocin neuropeptides have ancient roles in modulating sensory processing in neural circuits that underlie behavioral plasticity.

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