Caenorhabditis elegans interacts with its environment by sensing chemicals, touch, and temperature; genetic analysis of each of these responses has led to the identification of candidate signaling molecules within sensory neurons. A molecular model for touch sensation has emerged from studies of the mechanosensory response; the receptors and signal transduction mechanisms in olfactory neurons are being elucidated; and an unusual neuroendocrine role for a TGF-beta-related peptide in chemosensory neurons has been discovered. Presynaptic and postsynaptic components of neuronal synapses have been identified in behavioral and pharmacological mutant screens. Mutations have been found in multiple classes of nicotinic acetylcholine receptor genes, excitatory and inhibitory glutamate receptor genes, and candidate gap junction genes, allowing their function to be studied in vivo. Different G-protein signaling pathways have characteristic effects on behavior, neuronal degeneration, and embryonic development.