Dopamine modulates the plasticity of mechanosensory responses in Caenorhabditis elegans

EMBO J. 2004 Jan 28;23(2):473-82. doi: 10.1038/sj.emboj.7600057. Epub 2004 Jan 22.


Dopamine-modulated behaviors, including information processing and reward, are subject to behavioral plasticity. Disruption of these behaviors is thought to support drug addictions and psychoses. The plasticity of dopamine-mediated behaviors, for example, habituation and sensitization, are not well understood at the molecular level. We show that in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, a D1-like dopamine receptor gene (dop-1) modulates the plasticity of mechanosensory behaviors in which dopamine had not been implicated previously. A mutant of dop-1 displayed faster habituation to nonlocalized mechanical stimulation. This phenotype was rescued by the introduction of a wild-type copy of the gene. The dop-1 gene is expressed in mechanosensory neurons, particularly the ALM and PLM neurons. Selective expression of the dop-1 gene in mechanosensory neurons using the mec-7 promoter rescues the mechanosensory deficit in dop-1 mutant animals. The tyrosine hydroxylase-deficient C. elegans mutant (cat-2) also displays these specific behavioral deficits. These observations provide genetic evidence that dopamine signaling modulates behavioral plasticity in C. elegans.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / genetics
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / physiology*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / genetics
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / physiology*
  • Dopamine / biosynthesis
  • Dopamine / pharmacology
  • Habituation, Psychophysiologic
  • Mutation
  • Neuronal Plasticity*
  • Neurons, Afferent / metabolism
  • Receptors, Dopamine D1 / genetics
  • Receptors, Dopamine D1 / physiology*
  • Touch*


  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins
  • Dop-1 protein, C elegans
  • Receptors, Dopamine D1
  • Dopamine