The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans can sense and respond to hundreds of different chemicals with a simple nervous system, making it an excellent model for studies of chemosensation. The chemosensory neurons that mediate responses to different chemicals have been identified through laser ablation studies, providing a cellular context for chemosensory signaling. Genetic and molecular analyses indicate that chemosensation in nematodes involves G protein signaling pathways, as it does in vertebrates, but the receptors and G proteins involved belong to nematode-specific gene families. It is likely that about 500 different chemosensory receptors are used to detect the large spectrum of chemicals to which C. elegans responds, and one of these receptors has been matched with its odorant ligand. C. elegans olfactory responses are also subject to regulation based on experience, allowing the nematode to respond to a complex and changing chemical environment.
Copyright 1999 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.