Glutamatergic transmission regulates worms staying on a food patch in C. elegans

    Author Name(s)

    Ariana Perez
    Trevor Wolf
    Gianina Pontrelli
    Gareth Harris

    Faculty Advisor(s)

    Gareth Harris


    The sensation of environmental cues and subsequent decisions made as a result of the processing of specific sensory cues underlies a myriad of behavioral responses that control every-day life decisions and ultimately survival in many organisms. Despite the appreciation that organisms can sense, process, and translate sensory cues into a behavioral response, the precise neural mechanisms and molecules that mediate these behaviors are still unclear. Neurotransmitters, such as glutamate, have been implicated in a variety of sensory-dependent behavioral responses, including smell, pain, touch, and taste. In this present study, using our ‘food patch behavioral paradigm’, we examined the importance of glutamatergic transmission in the ability of worms to stay on a small food patch. Our study uses the invertebrate nematode, Caenorhabditis elegans, to characterize the types of neuronal signals that regulate behavior responses on food. Our experiments use behavioral analysis, mutant testing, and genetic manipulation to address our investigation. We have examined various neurotransmitter systems in 1) the regulation of spontaneous food leaving while residing on a food patch and during 2) the regulation of 2-nonanone-dependent food leaving, where worms are challenged with a repulsive odor while residing on a food patch. Interestingly, we have identified the role of multiple glutamate receptors that share significant conservation with human systems in the regulation of these food dependent behaviors. This overall suggests that glutamatergic transmission is important in controlling worms on a food source and provides an avenue for further investigation of how glutamate signaling controls sensory behavior and decision making.



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