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Magnetosensitive neurons mediate geomagnetic orientation in Caenorhabditis elegans

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Cite as: eLife 2015;4:e07493 doi: 10.7554/eLife.07493

Abstract

Many organisms spanning from bacteria to mammals orient to the earth's magnetic field. For a few animals, central neurons responsive to earth-strength magnetic fields have been identified; however, magnetosensory neurons have yet to be identified in any animal. We show that the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans orients to the earth's magnetic field during vertical burrowing migrations. Well-fed worms migrated up, while starved worms migrated down. Populations isolated from around the world, migrated at angles to the magnetic vector that would optimize vertical translation in their native soil, with northern- and southern-hemisphere worms displaying opposite migratory preferences. Magnetic orientation and vertical migrations required the TAX-4 cyclic nucleotide-gated ion channel in the AFD sensory neuron pair. Calcium imaging showed that these neurons respond to magnetic fields even without synaptic input. C. elegans may have adapted magnetic orientation to simplify their vertical burrowing migration by reducing the orientation task from three dimensions to one.

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Author details

  1. Andrés Vidal-Gadea

    1. School of Biological Sciences, Illinois State University, Normal, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  2. Kristi Ward

    1. Department of Neuroscience; Center for Brain, Behavior and Evolution; Center for Learning and Memory; Waggoner Center for Alcohol and Addiction Research; Institute of Cell and Molecular Biology, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  3. Celia Beron

    1. Department of Neuroscience; Center for Brain, Behavior and Evolution; Center for Learning and Memory; Waggoner Center for Alcohol and Addiction Research; Institute of Cell and Molecular Biology, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  4. Navid Ghorashian

    1. Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  5. Sertan Gokce

    1. Department of Electrical Engineering, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  6. Joshua Russell

    1. Department of Neuroscience; Center for Brain, Behavior and Evolution; Center for Learning and Memory; Waggoner Center for Alcohol and Addiction Research; Institute of Cell and Molecular Biology, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  7. Nicholas Truong

    1. Department of Neuroscience; Center for Brain, Behavior and Evolution; Center for Learning and Memory; Waggoner Center for Alcohol and Addiction Research; Institute of Cell and Molecular Biology, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  8. Adhishri Parikh

    1. Department of Neuroscience; Center for Brain, Behavior and Evolution; Center for Learning and Memory; Waggoner Center for Alcohol and Addiction Research; Institute of Cell and Molecular Biology, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  9. Otilia Gadea

    1. Department of Neuroscience; Center for Brain, Behavior and Evolution; Center for Learning and Memory; Waggoner Center for Alcohol and Addiction Research; Institute of Cell and Molecular Biology, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  10. Adela Ben-Yakar

    1. Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  11. Jonathan Pierce-Shimomura

    1. Department of Neuroscience; Center for Brain, Behavior and Evolution; Center for Learning and Memory; Waggoner Center for Alcohol and Addiction Research; Institute of Cell and Molecular Biology, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, United States
    For correspondence
    1. jonps@austin.utexas.edu
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Russ Fernald, Reviewing Editor, Stanford University, United States

Publication history

  1. Received: March 15, 2015
  2. Accepted: June 16, 2015
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: June 17, 2015 (version 1)
  4. Version of Record published: August 5, 2015 (version 2)

Copyright

© 2015, Vidal-Gadea et al.

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.

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Further reading

  1. Neurons in worms can sense the earth's magnetic field.

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