Mechanosensation is central to a wide range of functions, including tactile and pain perception, hearing, proprioception, and control of blood pressure, but identifying the molecules underlying mechanotransduction has proved challenging. In Caenorhabditis elegans, the avoidance response to gentle body touch is mediated by 6 touch receptor neurons (TRNs), and is dependent on MEC-4, a DEG/ENaC channel. We show that hemichannels containing the innexin protein UNC-7 are also essential for gentle touch in the TRNs, as well as harsh touch in both the TRNs and the PVD nociceptors. UNC-7 and MEC-4 do not colocalize, suggesting that their roles in mechanosensory transduction are independent. Heterologous expression of unc-7 in touch-insensitive chemosensory neurons confers ectopic touch sensitivity, indicating a specific role for UNC-7 hemichannels in mechanosensation. The unc-7 touch defect can be rescued by the homologous mouse gene Panx1 gene, thus, innexin/pannexin proteins may play broadly conserved roles in neuronal mechanotransduction.
All data generated or analysed during this study are included in the manuscript.
- William R Schafer
- William R Schafer
- William R Schafer
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
- Manuel Zimmer, Research Institute of Molecular Pathology, Vienna Biocenter and University of Vienna, Austria
© 2020, Walker & Schafer
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Complex behaviors depend on the coordinated activity of neural ensembles in interconnected brain areas. The behavioral function of such coordination, often measured as co-fluctuations in neural activity across areas, is poorly understood. One hypothesis is that rapidly varying co-fluctuations may be a signature of moment-by-moment task-relevant influences of one area on another. We tested this possibility for error-corrective adaptation of birdsong, a form of motor learning which has been hypothesized to depend on the top-down influence of a higher-order area, LMAN (lateral magnocellular nucleus of the anterior nidopallium), in shaping moment-by-moment output from a primary motor area, RA (robust nucleus of the arcopallium). In paired recordings of LMAN and RA in singing birds, we discovered a neural signature of a top-down influence of LMAN on RA, quantified as an LMAN-leading co-fluctuation in activity between these areas. During learning, this co-fluctuation strengthened in a premotor temporal window linked to the specific movement, sequential context, and acoustic modification associated with learning. Moreover, transient perturbation of LMAN activity specifically within this premotor window caused rapid occlusion of pitch modifications, consistent with LMAN conveying a temporally localized motor-biasing signal. Combined, our results reveal a dynamic top-down influence of LMAN on RA that varies on the rapid timescale of individual movements and is flexibly linked to contexts associated with learning. This finding indicates that inter-area co-fluctuations can be a signature of dynamic top-down influences that support complex behavior and its adaptation.
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