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      An oxytocin-dependent social interaction between larvae and adult C. elegans

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          Abstract

          Oxytocin has a conserved role in regulating animal social behaviour including parental-offspring interactions. Recently an oxytocin-like neuropeptide, nematocin, and its cognate receptors have been identified in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. We provide evidence for a pheromone signal produced by C. elegans larvae that modifies the behaviour of adult animals in an oxytocin-dependent manner increasing their probability of leaving a food patch which the larvae are populating. This increase is positively correlated to the size of the larval population but cannot be explained by food depletion nor is it modulated by biogenic amines, which suggest it is not an aversive behaviour. Moreover, the food-leaving behaviour is conspecific and pheromone dependent: C. elegans adults respond more strongly to C. elegans larvae compared to other nematode species and this effect is absent in C. elegans daf-22 larvae which are pheromone deficient. Neurotransmitter receptors previously implicated in C. elegans foraging decisions NPR-1 and TYRA-3, for NPY-like neuropeptides and tyramine respectively, do not appear to be involved in oxytocin-dependent adult food-leaving. We conclude oxytocin signals within a novel neural circuit that regulates parental-offspring social behaviour in C. elegans and that this provides evidence for evolutionary conservation of molecular components of a parental decision making behaviour.

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          Most cited references 36

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          Pathogenic bacteria induce aversive olfactory learning in Caenorhabditis elegans.

          Food can be hazardous, either through toxicity or through bacterial infections that follow the ingestion of a tainted food source. Because learning about food quality enhances survival, one of the most robust forms of olfactory learning is conditioned avoidance of tastes associated with visceral malaise. The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans feeds on bacteria but is susceptible to infection by pathogenic bacteria in its natural environment. Here we show that C. elegans modifies its olfactory preferences after exposure to pathogenic bacteria, avoiding odours from the pathogen and increasing its attraction to odours from familiar nonpathogenic bacteria. Particular bacteria elicit specific changes in olfactory preferences that are suggestive of associative learning. Exposure to pathogenic bacteria increases serotonin in ADF chemosensory neurons by transcriptional and post-transcriptional mechanisms. Serotonin functions through MOD-1, a serotonin-gated chloride channel expressed in sensory interneurons, to promote aversive learning. An increase in serotonin may represent the negative reinforcing stimulus in pathogenic infection.
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            Food and metabolic signalling defects in a Caenorhabditis elegans serotonin-synthesis mutant.

            The functions of serotonin have been assigned through serotonin-receptor-specific drugs and mutants; however, because a constellation of receptors remains when a single receptor subtype is inhibited, the coordinate responses to modulation of serotonin levels may be missed. Here we report the analysis of behavioural and neuroendocrine defects caused by a complete lack of serotonin signalling. Analysis of the C. elegans genome sequence showed that there is a single tryptophan hydroxylase gene (tph-1)-the key enzyme for serotonin biosynthesis. Animals bearing a tph-1 deletion mutation do not synthesize serotonin but are fully viable. The tph-1 mutant shows abnormalities in behaviour and metabolism that are normally coupled with the sensation and ingestion of food: rates of feeding and egg laying are decreased; large amounts of fat are stored; reproductive lifespan is increased; and some animals arrest at the metabolically inactive dauer stage. This metabolic dysregulation is, in part, due to downregulation of transforming growth factor-beta and insulin-like neuroendocrine signals. The action of the C. elegans serotonergic system in metabolic control is similar to mammalian serotonergic input to metabolism and obesity.
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              Inactivation of conserved C. elegans genes engages pathogen- and xenobiotic-associated defenses.

              The nematode C. elegans is attracted to nutritious bacteria and is repelled by pathogens and toxins. Here we show that RNAi and toxin-mediated disruption of core cellular activities, including translation, respiration, and protein turnover, stimulate behavioral avoidance of normally attractive bacteria. RNAi of these and other essential processes induces expression of detoxification and innate immune effectors, even in the absence of toxins or pathogens. Disruption of core processes in non-neuronal tissues was sufficient to stimulate aversion behavior, revealing a neuroendocrine axis of control that additionally required serotonergic and Jnk kinase signaling pathways. We propose that surveillance pathways overseeing core cellular activities allow animals to detect invading pathogens that deploy toxins and virulence factors to undermine vital host functions. Variation in cellular surveillance and endocrine pathways controlling behavior, detoxification, and immunity selected by past toxin or microbial interactions could underlie aberrant responses to foods, medicines, and microbes. Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                voconno@soton.ac.uk
                lmhd@soton.ac.uk
                Journal
                Sci Rep
                Sci Rep
                Scientific Reports
                Nature Publishing Group UK (London )
                2045-2322
                31 August 2017
                31 August 2017
                2017
                : 7
                Affiliations
                [1 ]ISNI 0000 0004 1936 9297, GRID grid.5491.9, Biological Sciences, Institute for Life Sciences, University of Southampton, ; Southampton, SO17 1BJ UK
                [2 ]ISNI 0000 0001 2196 8713, GRID grid.9004.d, National Infection Service, Public Health England, Porton Down, ; Salisbury, UK
                [3 ]ISNI 0000 0001 0668 7884, GRID grid.5596.f, Functional Genomics and Proteomics, Department of Biology, , KU Leuven, Naamsestraat 59, ; 3000 Leuven, Belgium
                Article
                9350
                10.1038/s41598-017-09350-7
                5579267
                28860630
                © The Author(s) 2017

                Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

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