Progressive recruitment of distal MEC-4 channels determines touch response strength in C. elegans.
The Journal of general physiology
Loss of CaMKI function disrupts salt aversive learning in C. elegans.
The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience
Touch deforms, or strains, the skin beyond the immediate point of contact. The spatiotemporal nature of the touch-induced strain fields depend on the mechanical properties of the skin and the tissues below. Somatosensory neurons that sense touch branch out within the skin and rely on a set of mechano-electrical transduction channels distributed within their dendrites to detect mechanical stimuli. Here, we sought to understand how tissue mechanics shape touch-induced mechanical strain across the skin over time and how individual channels located in different regions of the strain field contribute to the overall touch response. We leveraged Caenorhabditis elegans' touch receptor neurons as a simple model amenable to in vivo whole-cell patch-clamp recording and an integrated experimental-computational approach to dissect the mechanisms underlying the spatial and temporal dynamics we observed. Consistent with the idea that strain is produced at a distance, we show that delivering strong stimuli outside the anatomical extent of the neuron is sufficient to evoke MRCs. The amplitude and kinetics of the MRCs depended on both stimulus displacement and speed. Finally, we found that the main factor responsible for touch sensitivity is the recruitment of progressively more distant channels by stronger stimuli, rather than modulation of channel open probability. This principle may generalize to somatosensory neurons with more complex morphologies.
View details for DOI 10.1085/jgp.201912374
View details for PubMedID 31533952
Ultrasound Elicits Behavioral Responses through Mechanical Effects on Neurons and Ion Channels in a Simple Nervous System
JOURNAL OF NEUROSCIENCE
2018; 38 (12): 3081–91
The ability to adapt behavior to environmental fluctuations is critical for survival of organisms ranging from invertebrates to mammals. Caenorhabditis elegans can learn to avoid sodium chloride when it is paired with starvation. This behavior may help animals avoid areas without food. While some genes have been implicated in this salt aversive learning behavior, critical genetic components, and the neural circuit in which they act, remain elusive. Here, we show that the sole worm ortholog of mammalian CaMKI/IV, CMK-1, is essential for salt aversive learning behavior in C. elegans hermaphrodites. We find that CMK-1 acts in the primary salt-sensing ASE neurons to regulate this behavior. By characterizing the intracellular calcium dynamics in ASE neurons using microfluidics, we find that loss of cmk-1 has subtle effects on sensory-evoked calcium responses in ASE axons and their modulation by salt conditioning. Our study implicates the expression of the conserved CaMKI/CMK-1 in chemosensory neurons as a regulator of behavioral plasticity to environmental salt in C. elegansSIGNIFICANCE STATEMENTLike other animals, the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans depends on salt for survival and navigates toward high concentrations of this essential mineral. Besides its role as an essential nutrient, salt also causes osmotic stress at high concentrations. A growing body of evidence indicates that C. elegans balances the requirement for salt with the danger it presents through a process called salt aversive learning. We show that this behavior depends on expression of a calcium/calmodulin-dependent kinase, CMK-1, in the ASE salt sensing neurons. Our study identifies CMK-1 and salt-sensitive chemosensory neurons as key factors in this form of behavioral plasticity.
View details for PubMedID 29875264
Crescerin uses a TOG domain array to regulate microtubules in the primary cilium
MOLECULAR BIOLOGY OF THE CELL
2015; 26 (23): 4248-4264
Focused ultrasound has been shown to stimulate excitable cells, but the biophysical mechanisms behind this phenomenon remain poorly understood. To provide additional insight, we devised a behavioral-genetic assay applied to the well-characterized nervous system of Caenorhabditis elegans nematodes. We found that pulsed ultrasound elicits robust reversal behavior in wild-type animals in a pressure-, duration-, and pulse protocol-dependent manner. Responses were preserved in mutants unable to sense thermal fluctuations and absent in mutants lacking neurons required for mechanosensation. Additionally, we found that the worm's response to ultrasound pulses rests on the expression of MEC-4, a DEG/ENaC/ASIC ion channel required for touch sensation. Consistent with prior studies of MEC-4-dependent currents in vivo, the worm's response was optimal for pulses repeated 300-1000 times per second. Based on these findings, we conclude that mechanical, rather than thermal, stimulation accounts for behavioral responses. Further, we propose that acoustic radiation force governs the response to ultrasound in a manner that depends on the touch receptor neurons and MEC-4-dependent ion channels. Our findings illuminate a complete pathway of ultrasound action, from the forces generated by propagating ultrasound to an activation of a specific ion channel. The findings further highlight the importance of optimizing ultrasound pulsing protocols when stimulating neurons via ion channels with mechanosensitive properties.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT How ultrasound influences neurons and other excitable cells has remained a mystery for decades. Although it is widely understood that ultrasound can heat tissues and induce mechanical strain, whether or not neuronal activation depends on heat, mechanical force, or both physical factors is not known. We harnessed Caenorhabditis elegans nematodes and their extraordinary sensitivity to thermal and mechanical stimuli to address this question. Whereas thermosensory mutants respond to ultrasound similar to wild-type animals, mechanosensory mutants were insensitive to ultrasound stimulation. Additionally, stimulus parameters that accentuate mechanical effects were more effective than those producing more heat. These findings highlight a mechanical nature of the effect of ultrasound on neurons and suggest specific ways to optimize stimulation protocols in specific tissues.
View details for DOI 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1458-17.2018
View details for Web of Science ID 000428156900016
View details for PubMedID 29463641
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5864152
Eukaryotic cilia are cell-surface projections critical for sensing the extracellular environment. Defects in cilia structure and function result in a broad range of developmental and sensory disorders. However, mechanisms that regulate the microtubule (MT)-based scaffold forming the cilia core are poorly understood. TOG domain array-containing proteins ch-TOG and CLASP are key regulators of cytoplasmic MTs. Whether TOG array proteins also regulate ciliary MTs is unknown. Here we identify the conserved Crescerin protein family as a cilia-specific, TOG array-containing MT regulator. We present the crystal structure of mammalian Crescerin1 TOG2, revealing a canonical TOG fold with conserved tubulin-binding determinants. Crescerin1's TOG domains possess inherent MT-binding activity and promote MT polymerization in vitro. Using Cas9-triggered homologous recombination in Caenorhabditis elegans, we demonstrate that the worm Crescerin family member CHE-12 requires TOG domain-dependent tubulin-binding activity for sensory cilia development. Thus, Crescerin expands the TOG domain array-based MT regulatory paradigm beyond ch-TOG and CLASP, representing a distinct regulator of cilia structure.
View details for DOI 10.1091/mbc.E15-08-0603
View details for Web of Science ID 000366325800007
View details for PubMedID 26378256
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4642858