Caenorhabditis elegans male sensory-motor neurons and dopaminergic support cells couple ejaculation and post-ejaculatory behaviors

Elife. 2014 Jun 10:3:e02938. doi: 10.7554/eLife.02938.


The circuit structure and function underlying post-coital male behaviors remain poorly understood. Using mutant analysis, laser ablation, optogenetics, and Ca2+ imaging, we observed that following C. elegans male copulation, the duration of post-coital lethargy is coupled to cellular events involved in ejaculation. We show that the SPV and SPD spicule-associated sensory neurons and the spicule socket neuronal support cells function with intromission circuit components, including the cholinergic SPC and PCB and the glutamatergic PCA sensory-motor neurons, to coordinate sex muscle contractions with initiation and continuation of sperm movement. Our observations suggest that the SPV and SPD and their associated dopamine-containing socket cells sense the intrauterine environment through cellular endings exposed at the spicule tips and regulate both sperm release into the hermaphrodite and the recovery from post-coital lethargy.

Keywords: C. elegans; G-CaMP; acetylcholine; dopamine; ejaculation; glutamate; male mating behavior; neuroscience.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / physiology*
  • Calcium / chemistry
  • Dopamine / chemistry
  • Dopaminergic Neurons / physiology*
  • Ejaculation
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism
  • Male
  • Models, Biological
  • Motor Neurons / physiology*
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology
  • Reproduction
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / physiology*
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Spermatozoa / physiology
  • Transgenes


  • Calcium
  • Dopamine