The C. elegans thermosensory neuron AFD responds to warming

Curr Biol. 2004 Jul 27;14(14):1291-5. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2004.06.060.


The mechanism of temperature sensation is far less understood than the sensory response to other environmental stimuli such as light, odor, and taste. Thermotaxis behavior in C. elegans requires the ability to discriminate temperature differences as small as approximately 0.05 degrees C and to memorize the previously cultivated temperature. The AFD neuron is the only major thermosensory neuron required for the thermotaxis behavior. Genetic analyses have revealed several signal transduction molecules that are required for the sensation and/or memory of temperature information in the AFD neuron, but its physiological properties, such as its ability to sense absolute temperature or temperature change, have been unclear. We show here that the AFD neuron responds to warming. Calcium concentration in the cell body of AFD neuron is increased transiently in response to warming, but not to absolute temperature or to cooling. The transient response requires the activity of the TAX-4 cGMP-gated cation channel, which plays an essential role in the function of the AFD neuron. Interestingly, the AFD neuron further responds to step-like warming above a threshold that is set by temperature memory. We suggest that C. elegans provides an ideal model to genetically and physiologically reveal the molecular mechanism for sensation and memory of temperature information.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified
  • Biological Transport, Active / physiology
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / physiology*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / physiology
  • Calcium / physiology
  • Fluorescence
  • Hot Temperature*
  • Ion Channels / physiology
  • Mutagenesis, Site-Directed
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Plasmids / genetics
  • Thermosensing / physiology*
  • Transformation, Genetic


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