PDF-1 neuropeptide signaling modulates a neural circuit for mate-searching behavior in C. elegans

Nat Neurosci. 2012 Dec;15(12):1675-82. doi: 10.1038/nn.3253. Epub 2012 Nov 11.


Appetitive behaviors require complex decision making that involves the integration of environmental stimuli and physiological needs. C. elegans mate searching is a male-specific exploratory behavior regulated by two competing needs: food and reproductive appetite. We found that the pigment dispersing factor receptor (PDFR-1) modulates the circuit that encodes the male reproductive drive that promotes male exploration following mate deprivation. PDFR-1 and its ligand, PDF-1, stimulated mate searching in the male, but not in the hermaphrodite. pdf-1 was required in the gender-shared interneuron AIM, and the receptor acted in internal and external environment-sensing neurons of the shared nervous system (URY, PQR and PHA) to produce mate-searching behavior. Thus, the pdf-1 and pdfr-1 pathway functions in non-sex-specific neurons to produce a male-specific, goal-oriented exploratory behavior. Our results indicate that secretin neuropeptidergic signaling is involved in regulating motivational internal states.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / metabolism
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / physiology*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / metabolism
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / physiology*
  • Disorders of Sex Development / genetics
  • Disorders of Sex Development / metabolism
  • Disorders of Sex Development / physiopathology
  • Exploratory Behavior / physiology
  • Female
  • Ligands
  • Male
  • Nerve Net / metabolism
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Neuropeptides / metabolism
  • Neuropeptides / physiology*
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / metabolism
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / physiology*
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*


  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins
  • Ligands
  • Neuropeptides
  • PDFR-1 protein, C elegans
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled