Abstract | Sexually dimorphic control of gene expression in sensory neurons regulates decision-making behavior in C. elegans

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Sexually dimorphic control of gene expression in sensory neurons regulates decision-making behavior in C. elegans

Abstract

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Massachusetts Institute of Technology, United States

Animal behavior is directed by the integration of sensory information from internal states and the environment. Neuroendocrine regulation of diverse behaviors of Caenorhabditis elegans is under the control of the DAF-7/TGF-β ligand that is secreted from sensory neurons. Here, we show that C. elegans males exhibit an altered, male-specific expression pattern of daf-7 in the ASJ sensory neuron pair with the onset of reproductive maturity, which functions to promote male-specific mate-searching behavior. Molecular genetic analysis of the switch-like regulation of daf-7 expression in the ASJ neuron pair reveals a hierarchy of regulation among multiple inputs—sex, age, nutritional status, and microbial environment—which function in the modulation of behavior. Our results suggest that regulation of gene expression in sensory neurons can function in the integration of a wide array of sensory information and facilitate decision-making behaviors in C. elegans.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.21166.001