Genetics of chemotaxis and thermotaxis in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans

Annu Rev Genet. 1999;33:399-422. doi: 10.1146/annurev.genet.33.1.399.


Molecular genetic analysis of chemotaxis and theramotaxis in Caenorhabditis elegans has revealed the molecular bases of olfaction, taste, and thermosensation, which, in turn, has demonstrated that sensory signaling in C. elegans is very similar to that in vertebrates. A cyclic nucleotide-gated channel (TAX-2/TAX-4) that is highly homologous to the olfactory and photoreceptor channels in vertebrates is required for taste and thermosensation, in addition to olfaction. A cation channel (OSM-9) that is closely related to a capsaicin receptor channel is required for olfactory adaptation in one olfactory neuron and olfactory sensation in the other olfactory neuron. A novel G alpha protein (ODR-3) is essential for olfactory responses in all olfactory neurons and aversive responses in a polymodal sensory neuron. A G protein-coupled seven-transmembrane receptor (ODR-10) is the first olfactory receptor whose ligand was elucidated. Using chemotaxis and thermotaxis as behavioral paradigms, neural plasticity including learning and memory can be studied genetically in C. elegans.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / genetics*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / physiology*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins*
  • Chemotaxis / genetics*
  • Helminth Proteins / genetics
  • Helminth Proteins / physiology
  • Ion Channels / genetics
  • Ion Channels / physiology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Temperature


  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins
  • Helminth Proteins
  • Ion Channels
  • tax-2 protein, C elegans
  • tax-4 protein, C elegans