Dopamine modulates the plasticity of mechanosensory responses in Caenorhabditis elegans
Sanyal S, Wintle RF, Kindt KS, Nuttley WM, Arvan R, Fitzmaurice P,
Bigras E, Merz DC, Hebert TE, Van Der Kooy D,
Schafer WR, Culotti JG, Van Tol HH.
Departments of Psychiatry,
Pharmacology, Institute of Medical Science,
University of Toronto &
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto, Canada.
EMBO J. 2004 Jan 28;23(2):473-82. Epub 2004 Jan 22


Dopamine-modulated behaviors, including information processing and reward, are subject to behavioral plasticity. Disruption of these behaviors is thought to support drug addictions and psychoses. The plasticity of dopamine-mediated behaviors, for example, habituation and sensitization, are not well understood at the molecular level. We show that in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, a D1-like dopamine receptor gene (dop-1) modulates the plasticity of mechanosensory behaviors in which dopamine had not been implicated previously. A mutant of dop-1 displayed faster habituation to nonlocalized mechanical stimulation. This phenotype was rescued by the introduction of a wild-type copy of the gene. The dop-1 gene is expressed in mechanosensory neurons, particularly the ALM and PLM neurons. Selective expression of the dop-1 gene in mechanosensory neurons using the mec-7 promoter rescues the mechanosensory deficit in dop-1 mutant animals. The tyrosine hydroxylase-deficient C. elegans mutant (cat-2) also displays these specific behavioral deficits. These observations provide genetic evidence that dopamine signaling modulates behavioral plasticity in C. elegans.
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