Neurobiology of Caenorhabditis elegans Locomotion: Where Do We Stand?

Bioscience. 2014 Jun 1;64(6):476-486. doi: 10.1093/biosci/biu058. Epub 2014 May 6.


Animals use a nervous system for locomotion in some stage of their life cycle. The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, a major animal model for almost all fields of experimental biology, has long been used for detailed studies of genetic and physiological locomotion mechanisms. Of its 959 somatic cells, 302 are neurons that are identifiable by lineage, location, morphology, and neurochemistry in every adult hermaphrodite. Of those, 75 motoneurons innervate body wall muscles that provide the thrust during locomotion. In this Overview, we concentrate on the generation of either forward- or backward-directed motion during crawling and swimming. We describe locomotion behavior, the parts constituting the locomotion system, and the relevant neuronal connectivity. Because it is not yet fully understood how these components combine to generate locomotion, we discuss competing hypotheses and models.

Keywords: Caenorhabditis elegans; animal behavior; locomotion; neurobiology.