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Olfactory Plasticity Is Regulated by Pheromonal Signaling in Caenorhabditis elegans
Rebecca A. Butcher,3,
Population density–dependent dispersal is a well-characterizedstrategy of animal behavior in which dispersal rate increaseswhen population density is higher. Caenorhabditis elegans showspositive chemotaxis to a set of odorants, but the chemotaxisswitches from attraction to dispersal after prolonged exposureto the odorants. We show here that this plasticity of olfactorybehavior is dependent on population density and that this regulationis mediated by pheromonal signaling. We show that a peptide,suppressor of NEP-2 (SNET-1), negatively regulates olfactoryplasticity and that its expression is down-regulated by thepheromone. NEP-2, a homolog of the extracellular peptidase neprilysin,antagonizes SNET-1, and this function is essential for olfactoryplasticity. These results suggest that population density informationis transmitted through the external pheromone and endogenouspeptide signaling to modulate chemotactic behavior.
1 Department of Biophysics and Biochemistry, Graduate School of Science, University of Tokyo, Tokyo 113-0032, Japan. 2 Department of Biology, Graduate School of Science, Kyushu University, Fukuoka 812-8581, Japan. 3 Department of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.