A conserved neuronal DAF-16/FoxO plays an important role in conveying pheromone signals to elicit repulsion behavior in Caenorhabditis elegans

Sci Rep. 2017 Aug 3;7(1):7260. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-07313-6.


Animals use pheromones as a conspecific chemical language to respond appropriately to environmental changes. The soil nematode Caenorhabditis elegans secretes ascaroside pheromones throughout the lifecycle, which influences entry into dauer phase in early larvae, in addition to sexual attraction and aggregation. In adult hermaphrodites, pheromone sensory signals perceived by worms usually elicit repulsion as an initial behavioral signature. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying neuronal pheromone sensory process from perception to repulsion in adult hermaphrodites remain poorly understood. Here, we show that pheromone signals perceived by GPA-3 is conveyed through glutamatergic neurotransmission in which neuronal DAF-16/FoxO plays an important modulatory role by controlling glutaminase gene expression. We further provide evidence that this modulatory role for DAF-16/FoxO seems to be conserved evolutionarily by electro-physiological study in mouse primary hippocampal neurons that are responsible for glutamatergic neurotransmission. These findings provide the basis for understanding the nematode pheromone signaling, which seems crucial for adaptation of adult hermaphrodites to changes in environmental condition for survival.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / physiology*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / genetics*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / metabolism*
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors / genetics*
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • GTP-Binding Protein alpha Subunits, Gi-Go / genetics
  • GTP-Binding Protein alpha Subunits, Gi-Go / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Glutamic Acid / metabolism
  • Glutaminase / genetics
  • Glutaminase / metabolism
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I / metabolism
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Pheromones / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Synaptic Transmission


  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors
  • Insulin
  • Pheromones
  • daf-16 protein, C elegans
  • gpa-3 protein, C elegans
  • Glutamic Acid
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I
  • Glutaminase
  • GTP-Binding Protein alpha Subunits, Gi-Go