Feeding state sculpts a circuit for sensory valence in Caenorhabditis elegans

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2019 Jan 29;116(5):1776-1781. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1807454116. Epub 2019 Jan 16.


Hunger affects the behavioral choices of all animals, and many chemosensory stimuli can be either attractive or repulsive depending on an animal's hunger state. Although hunger-induced behavioral changes are well documented, the molecular and cellular mechanisms by which hunger modulates neural circuit function to generate changes in chemosensory valence are poorly understood. Here, we use the CO2 response of the free-living nematode Caenorhabditis elegans to elucidate how hunger alters valence. We show that CO2 response valence shifts from aversion to attraction during starvation, a change that is mediated by two pairs of interneurons in the CO2 circuit, AIY and RIG. The transition from aversion to attraction is regulated by biogenic amine signaling. Dopamine promotes CO2 repulsion in well-fed animals, whereas octopamine promotes CO2 attraction in starved animals. Biogenic amines also regulate the temporal dynamics of the shift from aversion to attraction such that animals lacking octopamine show a delayed shift to attraction. Biogenic amine signaling regulates CO2 response valence by modulating the CO2-evoked activity of AIY and RIG. Our results illuminate a new role for biogenic amine signaling in regulating chemosensory valence as a function of hunger state.

Keywords: C. elegans; biogenic amines; carbon dioxide; sensory valence; starvation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biogenic Amines / metabolism
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / metabolism
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / physiology*
  • Carbon Dioxide / metabolism
  • Dopamine / metabolism
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology*
  • Interneurons / metabolism
  • Interneurons / physiology
  • Nematoda / physiology
  • Octopamine / metabolism
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / metabolism
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Starvation / physiopathology


  • Biogenic Amines
  • Carbon Dioxide
  • Octopamine
  • Dopamine