Sensory Neurons Arouse C. elegans Locomotion via Both Glutamate and Neuropeptide Release

PLoS Genet. 2015 Jul 8;11(7):e1005359. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1005359. eCollection 2015 Jul.


C. elegans undergoes periods of behavioral quiescence during larval molts (termed lethargus) and as adults. Little is known about the circuit mechanisms that establish these quiescent states. Lethargus and adult locomotion quiescence is dramatically reduced in mutants lacking the neuropeptide receptor NPR-1. Here, we show that the aroused locomotion of npr-1 mutants results from the exaggerated activity in multiple classes of sensory neurons, including nociceptive (ASH), touch sensitive (ALM and PLM), and stretch sensing (DVA) neurons. These sensory neurons accelerate locomotion via both neuropeptide and glutamate release. The relative contribution of these sensory neurons to arousal differs between larval molts and adults. Our results suggest that a broad network of sensory neurons dictates transitions between aroused and quiescent behavioral states.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arousal / physiology
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / metabolism
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / physiology*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / genetics*
  • Cell Movement / physiology*
  • Glutamic Acid / metabolism*
  • Neuropeptides / metabolism*
  • Nociceptors / metabolism
  • Receptors, Neuropeptide Y / genetics*
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / metabolism*
  • Sleep / physiology


  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins
  • NPR-1 protein, C elegans
  • Neuropeptides
  • Receptors, Neuropeptide Y
  • Glutamic Acid