Thermosensation is critical for optimal regulation of physiology and behavior. C. elegans acclimates to its cultivation temperature (Tc) and exhibits thermosensitive behaviors at temperatures relative to Tc. These behaviors are mediated primarily by the AFD sensory neurons, which are extraordinarily thermosensitive and respond to thermal fluctuations at temperatures above a Tc-determined threshold. Although cGMP signaling is necessary for thermotransduction, the thermosensors in AFD are unknown. We show that AFD-specific receptor guanylyl cyclases (rGCs) are instructive for thermosensation. In addition to being necessary for thermotransduction, ectopic expression of these rGCs confers highly temperature-dependent responses onto diverse cell types. We find that the temperature response threshold is determined by the rGC and cellular context, and that multiple domains contribute to their thermosensory properties. Identification of thermosensory rGCs in C. elegans provides insight into mechanisms of thermosensation and thermal acclimation and suggests that rGCs may represent a new family of molecular thermosensors.
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