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      Intercellular calcium signaling in a gap junction-coupled cell network establishes asymmetric neuronal fates in C. elegans.

      Development (Cambridge, England)

      Animals, Biological Transport, Caenorhabditis elegans, cytology, genetics, metabolism, Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins, Calbindins, Calcium, Calcium Signaling, Cell Communication, Cells, Cultured, Connexins, Gap Junctions, Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental, Ion Channels, Membrane Proteins, Neurons, Olfactory Pathways, Olfactory Receptor Neurons, S100 Calcium Binding Protein G, Signal Transduction

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          The C. elegans left and right AWC olfactory neurons specify asymmetric subtypes, one default AWC(OFF) and one induced AWC(ON), through a stochastic, coordinated cell signaling event. Intercellular communication between AWCs and non-AWC neurons via a NSY-5 gap junction network coordinates AWC asymmetry. However, the nature of intercellular signaling across the network and how individual non-AWC cells in the network influence AWC asymmetry is not known. Here, we demonstrate that intercellular calcium signaling through the NSY-5 gap junction neural network coordinates a precise 1AWC(ON)/1AWC(OFF) decision. We show that NSY-5 gap junctions in C. elegans cells mediate small molecule passage. We expressed vertebrate calcium-buffer proteins in groups of cells in the network to reduce intracellular calcium levels, thereby disrupting intercellular communication. We find that calcium in non-AWC cells of the network promotes the AWC(ON) fate, in contrast to the autonomous role of calcium in AWCs to promote the AWC(OFF) fate. In addition, calcium in specific non-AWCs promotes AWC(ON) side biases through NSY-5 gap junctions. Our results suggest a novel model in which calcium has dual roles within the NSY-5 network: autonomously promoting AWC(OFF) and non-autonomously promoting AWC(ON).

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