Regulation of two motor patterns enables the gradual adjustment of locomotion strategy in Caenorhabditis elegans

Elife. 2016 May 25;5:e14116. doi: 10.7554/eLife.14116.

Abstract

In animal locomotion a tradeoff exists between stereotypy and flexibility: fast long-distance travelling (LDT) requires coherent regular motions, while local sampling and area-restricted search (ARS) rely on flexible movements. We report here on a posture control system in C. elegans that coordinates these needs. Using quantitative posture analysis we explain worm locomotion as a composite of two modes: regular undulations versus flexible turning. Graded reciprocal regulation of both modes allows animals to flexibly adapt their locomotion strategy under sensory stimulation along a spectrum ranging from LDT to ARS. Using genetics and functional imaging of neural activity we characterize the counteracting interneurons AVK and DVA that utilize FLP-1 and NLP-12 neuropeptides to control both motor modes. Gradual regulation of behaviors via this system is required for spatial navigation during chemotaxis. This work shows how a nervous system controls simple elementary features of posture to generate complex movements for goal-directed locomotion strategies.

Keywords: C. elegans; locomotion; motor control; neuromodulation; neuroscience.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / physiology*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / metabolism
  • Chemotaxis
  • Locomotion*
  • Models, Neurological
  • Motor Neurons / physiology*
  • Nervous System Physiological Phenomena*
  • Neuropeptides / metabolism

Substances

  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins
  • Neuropeptides