The regulation of feeding and metabolism in response to food deprivation in Caenorhabditis elegans

Invert Neurosci. 2010 Dec;10(2):63-76. doi: 10.1007/s10158-010-0112-z. Epub 2010 Dec 1.


This review considers the factors involved in the regulation of feeding and metabolism in response to food deprivation using Caenorhabditis elegans as a model organism. Some of the sensory neurons and interneurons involved in food intake are described, together with an overview of pharyngeal pumping. A number of chemical transmitters control feeding in C. elegans including 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT, serotonin), acetylcholine, glutamate, dopamine, octopamine, and tyramine. The roles of these transmitters are modified by neuropeptides, including FMRFamide-like peptides (FLPs), neuropeptide-like protein (NLPs), and insulin-like peptides. The precise effects of many of these neuropeptides have yet to be elucidated but increasingly they are being shown to play a role in feeding and metabolism in C. elegans. The regulation of fat stores is complex and appears to involve the expression of a large number of genes, many with mammalian homologues, suggesting that fat regulatory signalling is conserved across phyla. Finally, a brief comparison is made between C. elegans and mammals where for both, despite their evolutionary distance, classical transmitters and neuropeptides have anorectic or orexigenic properties. Thus, there is a rationale to support the argument that an understanding of the molecular and genetic basis of feeding and fat regulation in C. elegans may contribute to efforts aimed at the identification of targets for the treatment of conditions associated with abnormal metabolism and obesity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / physiology*
  • Eating / physiology*
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology*
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology*
  • Food Deprivation / physiology*
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Neuropeptides / physiology


  • Neuropeptides