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Analysis of the NK2 homeobox gene ceh-24 reveals sublateral motor neuron control of left-right turning during sleep

  1. Juliane Schwarz
  2. Henrik Bringmann  Is a corresponding author
  1. Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, Germany
Research Article
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Cite this article as: eLife 2017;6:e24846 doi: 10.7554/eLife.24846


Sleep is a behavior that is found in all animals that have a nervous system and that have been studied carefully. In Caenorhabditis elegans larvae, sleep is associated with a turning behavior, called flipping, in which animals rotate 180{degree sign} about their longitudinal axis. However, the molecular and neural substrates of this enigmatic behavior are not known. Here, we identified the conserved NK-2 homeobox gene ceh-24 to be crucially required for flipping. ceh-24 is required for the formation of processes and for cholinergic function of sublateral motor neurons, which separately innervate the four body muscle quadrants. Knockdown of cholinergic function in a subset of these sublateral neurons, the SIAs, abolishes flipping. The SIAs depolarize during flipping and their optogenetic activation induces flipping in a fraction of events. Thus, we identified the sublateral SIA neurons to control the three-dimensional movements of flipping. These neurons may also control other types of motion.

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Author details

  1. Juliane Schwarz

    Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, Göttingen, Germany
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  2. Henrik Bringmann

    Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, Göttingen, Germany
    For correspondence
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0002-7689-8617


Max-Planck-Gesellschaft (Max Planck Research Group (Open-access funding))

  • Henrik Bringmann

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Oliver Hobert, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Columbia University, United States

Publication history

  1. Received: January 2, 2017
  2. Accepted: February 26, 2017
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: February 28, 2017 (version 1)
  4. Accepted Manuscript updated: March 2, 2017 (version 2)
  5. Version of Record published: April 7, 2017 (version 3)


© 2017, Schwarz & Bringmann

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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