Social feeding in Caenorhabditis elegans is induced by neurons that detect aversive stimuli

Nature. 2002 Oct 31;419(6910):899-903. doi: 10.1038/nature01169.


Natural Caenorhabditis elegans isolates exhibit either social or solitary feeding on bacteria. We show here that social feeding is induced by nociceptive neurons that detect adverse or stressful conditions. Ablation of the nociceptive neurons ASH and ADL transforms social animals into solitary feeders. Social feeding is probably due to the sensation of noxious chemicals by ASH and ADL neurons; it requires the genes ocr-2 and osm-9, which encode TRP-related transduction channels, and odr-4 and odr-8, which are required to localize sensory chemoreceptors to cilia. Other sensory neurons may suppress social feeding, as social feeding in ocr-2 and odr-4 mutants is restored by mutations in osm-3, a gene required for the development of 26 ciliated sensory neurons. Our data suggest a model for regulation of social feeding by opposing sensory inputs: aversive inputs to nociceptive neurons promote social feeding, whereas antagonistic inputs from neurons that express osm-3 inhibit aggregation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / cytology
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / drug effects
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / genetics
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / physiology*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / genetics
  • Cilia / metabolism
  • Feeding Behavior* / drug effects
  • Genotype
  • Ion Channels / genetics
  • Kinesins / genetics
  • Lasers
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / genetics
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Nociceptors / drug effects
  • Nociceptors / physiology*
  • Pain / chemically induced
  • Pain / physiopathology
  • Receptors, Neuropeptide Y / genetics
  • Receptors, Odorant / genetics
  • Social Behavior*
  • Stress, Physiological / chemically induced
  • Stress, Physiological / physiopathology
  • Suppression, Genetic / genetics
  • TRPV Cation Channels
  • Transient Receptor Potential Channels


  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins
  • Ion Channels
  • NPR-1 protein, C elegans
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • OCR-2 protein, C elegans
  • ODR-4 protein, C elegans
  • OSM-3 protein, C elegans
  • OSM-9 protein, C elegans
  • Receptors, Neuropeptide Y
  • Receptors, Odorant
  • TRPV Cation Channels
  • Transient Receptor Potential Channels
  • Kinesins