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Science 329 (5999): 1647-1650

Copyright © 2010 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Olfactory Plasticity Is Regulated by Pheromonal Signaling in Caenorhabditis elegans

Koji Yamada,1 Takaaki Hirotsu,1,2 Masahiro Matsuki,1,* Rebecca A. Butcher,3,{dagger} Masahiro Tomioka,1 Takeshi Ishihara,2 Jon Clardy,3 Hirofumi Kunitomo,1 Yuichi Iino1,{ddagger}

Abstract: Population density–dependent dispersal is a well-characterized strategy of animal behavior in which dispersal rate increases when population density is higher. Caenorhabditis elegans shows positive chemotaxis to a set of odorants, but the chemotaxis switches from attraction to dispersal after prolonged exposure to the odorants. We show here that this plasticity of olfactory behavior is dependent on population density and that this regulation is mediated by pheromonal signaling. We show that a peptide, suppressor of NEP-2 (SNET-1), negatively regulates olfactory plasticity and that its expression is down-regulated by the pheromone. NEP-2, a homolog of the extracellular peptidase neprilysin, antagonizes SNET-1, and this function is essential for olfactory plasticity. These results suggest that population density information is transmitted through the external pheromone and endogenous peptide 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.

* Present address: Frontier Product Creation Unit, Eisai Co., Tsukuba-shi Ibaraki 300-2635, Japan.

{dagger} Present address: Department of Chemistry, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611, USA.

{ddagger} To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: iino{at}

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