The neural circuit for touch sensitivity in Caenorhabditis elegans

J Neurosci. 1985 Apr;5(4):956-64. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.05-04-00956.1985.


The neural pathways for touch-induced movement in Caenorhabditis elegans contain six touch receptors, five pairs of interneurons, and 69 motor neurons. The synaptic relationships among these cells have been deduced from reconstructions from serial section electron micrographs, and the roles of the cells were assessed by examining the behavior of animals after selective killing of precursors of the cells by laser microsurgery. This analysis revealed that there are two pathways for touch-mediated movement for anterior touch (through the AVD and AVB interneurons) and a single pathway for posterior touch (via the PVC interneurons). The anterior touch circuitry changes in two ways as the animal matures. First, there is the formation of a neural network of touch cells as the three anterior touch cells become coupled by gap junctions. Second, there is the addition of the AVB pathway to the pre-existing AVD pathway. The touch cells also synapse onto many cells that are probably not involved in the generation of movement. Such synapses suggest that stimulation of these receptors may modify a number of behaviors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis
  • Interneurons / physiology
  • Lasers
  • Mechanoreceptors / physiology
  • Motor Neurons / physiology
  • Movement
  • Muscle Contraction
  • Nervous System Physiological Phenomena*
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Synapses / physiology
  • Touch / physiology*