Most eukaryotic cells express small regulatory RNAs. The purpose of one class, the somatic endogenous siRNAs (endo-siRNAs), remains unclear. Here, we show that the endo-siRNA pathway promotes odor adaptation in C. elegans AWC olfactory neurons. In adaptation, the nuclear Argonaute NRDE-3, which acts in AWC, is loaded with siRNAs targeting odr-1, a gene whose downregulation is required for adaptation. Concomitant with increased odr-1 siRNA in AWC, we observe increased binding of the HP1 homolog HPL-2 at the odr-1 locus in AWC and reduced odr-1 mRNA in adapted animals. Phosphorylation of HPL-2, an in vitro substrate of the EGL-4 kinase that promotes adaption, is necessary and sufficient for behavioral adaptation. Thus, environmental stimulation amplifies an endo-siRNA negative feedback loop to dynamically repress cognate gene expression and shape behavior. This class of siRNA may act broadly as a rheostat allowing prolonged stimulation to dampen gene expression and promote cellular memory formation. PAPERFLICK:
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