Role of synaptic phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase in a behavioral learning response in C. elegans

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Science  18 Jul 2014:
Vol. 345, Issue 6194, pp. 313-317
DOI: 10.1126/science.1250709

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How the worm changes its tastes

In associative learning, you link potentially unrelated things because you are exposed to them at the same time. Ohno et al. studied a simple associative learning task in the nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans. They presented the worms with a taste substance while withholding food. After starving in the presence of the taste substance, the animals switched their behavior from being attracted to the taste to finding it aversive. A specific isoform of the insulin receptor is critical for this type of associative learning—at least in worms.

Science, this issue p. 313


The phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) pathway regulates many cellular functions, but its roles in the nervous system are still poorly understood. We found that a newly discovered insulin receptor isoform, DAF-2c, is translocated from the cell body to the synaptic region of the chemosensory neuron in Caenorhabditis elegans by a conditioning stimulus that induces taste avoidance learning. This translocation is essential for learning and is dependent on the mitogen-activated protein kinase–regulated interaction of CASY-1 (the calsyntenin ortholog) and kinesin-1. The PI3K pathway is required downstream of the receptor. Light-regulated activation of PI3K in the synaptic region, but not in other parts of the cell, switched taste-attractive behavior to taste avoidance, mimicking the effect of conditioning. Thus, synaptic PI3K is crucial for the behavioral switch caused by learning.

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