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Mechanosensation circuitry in Caenorhabditis elegans: A focus on gentle touch

Forward or reverse movement in C. elegans is the result of sequential iancontraction of muscle cells arranged along the body. In larvae, muscle cells are innervated by distinct classes of motorneurons. B motorneurons regulate forward movement and A motorneurons regulate backward movement. Ablation of the D motor neurons results in animals that are uncoordinated in either direction, which suggests that D motorneurons regulate the interaction between the two circuits. C. elegans locomotion is dictated by inputs from interneurons that regulate the activity of motorneurons which coordinate muscle contraction to facilitate forward or backwards movement. As C. elegans moves through the environment, sensory neurons interpret chemical and mechanical information which is relayed to the motor neurons that control locomotory direction. A mechanosensory input known as light nose touch can be simulated in the laboratory by touching the nose of the animal with a human eyebrow hair. The recoil reaction that follows from light nose touch appears to be primarily mediated by glutamate release from the polymodal sensory neuron ASH. Numerous glutamate receptor types are found in different neurons and interneurons which suggests that several pathways may regulate the aversive response. Based on the phenotypes of mutants in which neuropeptide processing is abolished, neuropeptides play a role in circuit regulation. The light touch response is also regulated by transient receptor channel proteins and degenerin/epithelial sodium channels which modulate the activity of sensory neurons involved in the nose touch response. (Read More)