Neuropeptides encoded by nlp-49 modulate locomotion, arousal and egg-laying behaviours in Caenorhabditis elegans via the receptor SEB-3

Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2018 Sep 10;373(1758):20170368. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2017.0368.


Neuropeptide signalling has been implicated in a wide variety of biological processes in diverse organisms, from invertebrates to humans. The Caenorhabditis elegans genome has at least 154 neuropeptide precursor genes, encoding over 300 bioactive peptides. These neuromodulators are thought to largely signal beyond 'wired' chemical/electrical synapse connections, therefore creating a 'wireless' network for neuronal communication. Here, we investigated how behavioural states are affected by neuropeptide signalling through the G protein-coupled receptor SEB-3, which belongs to a bilaterian family of orphan secretin receptors. Using reverse pharmacology, we identified the neuropeptide NLP-49 as a ligand of this evolutionarily conserved neuropeptide receptor. Our findings demonstrate novel roles for NLP-49 and SEB-3 in locomotion, arousal and egg-laying. Specifically, high-content analysis of locomotor behaviour indicates that seb-3 and nlp-49 deletion mutants cause remarkably similar abnormalities in movement dynamics, which are reversed by overexpression of wild-type transgenes. Overexpression of NLP-49 in AVK interneurons leads to heightened locomotor arousal, an effect that is dependent on seb-3. Finally, seb-3 and nlp-49 mutants also show constitutive egg-laying in liquid medium and alter the temporal pattern of egg-laying in similar ways. Together, these results provide in vivo evidence that NLP-49 peptides act through SEB-3 to modulate behaviour, and highlight the importance of neuropeptide signalling in the control of behavioural states.This article is part of a discussion meeting issue 'Connectome to behaviour: modelling C. elegans at cellular resolution'.

Keywords: Caenorhabditis elegans; arousal; egg-laying; locomotion; neuropeptides.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arousal*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / genetics
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / physiology*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / genetics*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / metabolism
  • Locomotion
  • Neuropeptides / genetics*
  • Neuropeptides / metabolism
  • Oviposition*
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / genetics*
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / metabolism


  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins
  • Neuropeptides
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled
  • SEB-3 protein, C elegans
  • nlp-49 protein, C elegans

Associated data

  • figshare/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.4208627