Publications

2013
Mathew, D., et al. Functional diversity among sensory receptors in a Drosophila olfactory circuit. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 110, 23, E2134-43 (2013). Publisher's VersionAbstract

The ability of an animal to detect, discriminate, and respond to odors depends on the function of its olfactory receptor neurons (ORNs), which in turn depends ultimately on odorant receptors. To understand the diverse mechanisms used by an animal in olfactory coding and computation, it is essential to understand the functional diversity of its odor receptors. The larval olfactory system of Drosophila melanogaster contains 21 ORNs and a comparable number of odorant receptors whose properties have been examined in only a limited way. We systematically screened them with a panel of ∼500 odorants, yielding >10,000 receptor-odorant combinations. We identify for each of 19 receptors an odorant that excites it strongly. The responses elicited by each of these odorants are analyzed in detail. The odorants elicited little cross-activation of other receptors at the test concentration; thus, low concentrations of many of these odorants in nature may be signaled by a single ORN. The receptors differed dramatically in sensitivity to their cognate odorants. The responses showed diverse temporal dynamics, with some odorants eliciting supersustained responses. An intriguing question in the field concerns the roles of different ORNs and receptors in driving behavior. We found that the cognate odorants elicited behavioral responses that varied across a broad range. Some odorants elicited strong physiological responses but weak behavioral responses or weak physiological responses but strong behavioral responses.

Reprint.pdf
Donnelly, J.L., et al. Monoaminergic Orchestration of Motor Programs in a Complex C. elegans Behavior. PLoS Biology 11, 4, e1001529 (2013). Publisher's Version alkema2013.pdf
2012
Fang-Yen, C., Gabel, C., Samuel, A.D., Bargmann, C. & Avery, L. Chapter 6 - Laser Microsurgery in Caenorhabditis elegans. Methods in Cell Biology, 107, 177-206 (2012). Publisher's VersionAbstract
Laser killing of cell nuclei has long been a powerful means of examining the roles of individual cells in C. elegans. Advances in genetics, laser technology, and imaging have further expanded the capabilities and usefulness of laser surgery. Here, we review the implementation and application of currently used methods for target edoptical disruption in C. elegans.
methods_cell_biol_2012_fang-yen.pdf
Pinan-Lucarre, B., et al. The core apoptotic executioner proteins CED-3 and CED-4 promote neuronal regeneration in Caenorhabditis elegans. PLoS Biology 10, e1001331 (2012). WebsiteAbstract
The chemotrophic factor Netrin can simultaneously instruct different neurodevelopmental programs in individual neurons in vivo. How neurons correctly interpret the Netrin signal and undergo the appropriate neurodevelopmental response is not understood. Here we identify MIG-10 isoforms as critical determinants of individual cellular responses to Netrin. We determined that distinct MIG-10 isoforms, varying only in their N-terminal motifs, can localize to specific subcellular domains and are differentially required for discrete neurodevelopmental processes in vivo. We identified MIG-10B as an isoform uniquely capable of localizing to presynaptic regions and instructing synaptic vesicle clustering in response to Netrin. MIG-10B interacts with Abl-interacting protein-1 (ABI-1)/Abi1, a component of the WAVE complex, to organize the actin cytoskeleton at presynaptic sites and instruct vesicle clustering through SNN-1/Synapsin. We identified a motif in the MIG-10B N-terminal domain that is required for its function and localization to presynaptic sites. With this motif, we engineered a dominant-negative MIG-10B construct that disrupts vesicle clustering and animal thermotaxis behavior when expressed in a single neuron in vivo. Our findings indicate that the unique N-terminal domains confer distinct MIG-10 isoforms with unique capabilities to localize to distinct subcellular compartments, organize the actin cytoskeleton at these sites, and instruct distinct Netrin-dependent neurodevelopmental programs.
plos_biol_2012_pinan-lucarre.pdf
Omura, D., Clark, D., Samuel, A.D. & Horvitz, H.R. Dopamine signaling sets and maintains a precise rate of locomotion by C. elegans. PLoS ONE 7, 6, e38649 (2012). WebsiteAbstract
Dopamine is an important neuromodulator in both vertebrates and invertebrates. We have found that reduced dopamine signaling can cause a distinct abnormality in the behavior of the nematode C. elegans, which has only eight dopaminergic neurons. Using an automated particle-tracking system for the analysis of C. elegans locomotion, we observed that individual wild-type animals made small adjustments to their speed to maintain constant rates of locomotion. By contrast, individual mutant animals defective in the synthesis of dopamine made larger adjustments to their speeds, resulting in large fluctuations in their rates of locomotion. Mutants defective in dopamine signaling also frequently exhibited both abnormally high and abnormally low average speeds. The ability to make small adjustments to speed was restored to these mutants by treatment with dopamine. These behaviors depended on the D2-like dopamine receptor DOP-3 and the G-protein subunit GOA-1. We suggest that C. elegans and other animals, including humans, might share mechanisms by which dopamine restricts motor activity levels and coordinates movement.
plos_one_2012_omura.pdf
Stavoe, A., et al. Synaptic vesicle clustering and axon arborization require distinct MIG-10/Lamellipodin isoforms downstream of Netrin. Genes and Development 26, 19, 2206-2221 (2012). WebsiteAbstract
The chemotrophic factor Netrin can simultaneously instruct different neurodevelopmental programs in individual neurons in vivo. How neurons correctly interpret the Netrin signal and undergo the appropriate neurodevelopmental response is not understood. Here we identify MIG-10 isoforms as critical determinants of individual cellular responses to Netrin. We determined that distinct MIG-10 isoforms, varying only in their N-terminal motifs, can localize to specific subcellular domains and are differentially required for discrete neurodevelopmental processes in vivo. We identified MIG-10B as an isoform uniquely capable of localizing to presynaptic regions and instructing synaptic vesicle clustering in response to Netrin. MIG-10B interacts with Abl-interacting protein-1 (ABI-1)/Abi1, a component of the WAVE complex, to organize the actin cytoskeleton at presynaptic sites and instruct vesicle clustering through SNN-1/Synapsin. We identified a motif in the MIG-10B N-terminal domain that is required for its function and localization to presynaptic sites. With this motif, we engineered a dominant-negative MIG-10B construct that disrupts vesicle clustering and animal thermotaxis behavior when expressed in a single neuron in vivo. Our findings indicate that the unique N-terminal domains confer distinct MIG-10 isoforms with unique capabilities to localize to distinct subcellular compartments, organize the actin cytoskeleton at these sites, and instruct distinct Netrin-dependent neurodevelopmental programs.
genes_dev_2012_stavoe.pdf
Wen, Q., et al. Proprioceptive Coupling within Motor Neurons Drives C. elegans Forward Locomotion. Neuron 76, 4, 750-761 (2012). Publisher's VersionAbstract
Locomotion requires coordinated motor activity throughout an animal’s body. In both vertebrates and invertebrates, chains of coupled central pattern generators (CPGs) are commonly evoked to explain local rhythmic behaviors. In C. elegans, we report that proprioception within the motor circuit is responsible for propagating and coordinating rhythmic undulatory waves from head to tail during forward movement. Proprioceptive coupling between adjacent body regions transduces rhythmic movement initiated near the head into bending waves driven along the body by a chain of reflexes. Using optogenetics and calcium imaging to manipulate and monitor motor circuit activity of moving C. elegans held in microfluidic devices, we found that the B-type cholinergic motor neurons transduce the proprioceptive signal. In C. elegans, a sensorimotor feedback loop operating within a specific type of motor neuron both drives and organizes body movement.
neuron_2012_wen.pdf neuron_2012_goulding.pdf
Gershow, M., et al. Controlling airborne cues during small animal navigation. Nature Methods 9, 3, 290-296 (2012). WebsiteAbstract
Small animals such as nematodes and insects analyze airborne chemical cues to infer the direction of favorable and noxious locations. In these animals, the study of navigational behavior evoked by airborne cues has been limited by the difficulty of precisely controlling stimuli. We present a system that can be used to deliver gaseous stimuli in defined spatial and temporal patterns to freely moving small animals. We used this apparatus, in combination with machine-vision algorithms, to assess and quantify navigational decision making of Drosophila melanogaster larvae in response to ethyl acetate (a volatile attractant) and carbon dioxide (a gaseous repellant).
nature_methods_2012_gershow.pdf
2011
Leifer, A., Fang-Yen, C., Gershow, M., Alkema, M. & Samuel, A.D. Optogenetic control with high spatial and temporal resolution in freely moving C. elegans. Nature Methods 8, 2, 147-152 (2011). WebsiteAbstract
We present an optogenetic illumination system capable of real-time light delivery with high spatial resolution to specified targets in freely moving Caenorhabditis elegans. A tracking microscope records the motion of an unrestrained worm expressing channelrhodopsin-2 or halorhodopsin in specific cell types. Image processing software analyzes the worm's position in each video frame, rapidly estimates the locations of targeted cells and instructs a digital micromirror device to illuminate targeted cells with laser light of the appropriate wavelengths to stimulate or inhibit activity. Because each cell in an unrestrained worm is a rapidly moving target, our system operates at high speed (∼50 frames per second) to provide high spatial resolution (∼30 μm). To test the accuracy, flexibility and utility of our system, we performed optogenetic analyses of the worm motor circuit, egg-laying circuit and mechanosensory circuits that have not been possible with previous methods.
nature_methods_2011_leifer.pdf
Lahiri, S., et al. Two alternating motor programs drive navigational decision-making in Drosophila larva. PLoS ONE 6, 8, e23180 (2011). Publisher's VersionAbstract

When placed on a temperature gradient, a Drosophila larva navigates away from excessive cold or heat by regulating the size, frequency, and direction of reorientation maneuvers between successive periods of forward movement. Forward movement is driven by peristalsis waves that travel from tail to head. During each reorientation maneuver, the larva pauses and sweeps its head from side to side until it picks a new direction for forward movement. Here, we characterized the motor programs that underlie the initiation, execution, and completion of reorientation maneuvers by measuring body segment dynamics of freely moving larvae with fluorescent muscle fibers as they were exposed to temporal changes in temperature. We find that reorientation maneuvers are characterized by highly stereotyped spatiotemporal patterns of segment dynamics. Reorientation maneuvers are initiated with head sweeping movement driven by asymmetric contraction of a portion of anterior body segments. The larva attains a new direction for forward movement after head sweeping movement by using peristalsis waves that gradually push posterior body segments out of alignment with the tail (i.e., the previous direction of forward movement) into alignment with the head. Thus, reorientation maneuvers during thermotaxis are carried out by two alternating motor programs: (1) peristalsis for driving forward movement and (2) asymmetric contraction of anterior body segments for driving head sweeping movement.

plos_one_2011_lahiri.pdf
2010
Garrity, P., Goodman, M., Samuel, A.D. & Sengupta, P. Running hot and cold: behavioral strategies, neural circuits, and the molecular machinery for thermotaxis in C. elegans and Drosophila. Genes and Development 24, 2365-2382 (2010). WebsiteAbstract
Like other ectotherms, the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans and the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster rely on behavioral strategies to stabilize their body temperature. Both animals use specialized sensory neurons to detect small changes in temperature, and the activity of these thermosensors governs the neural circuits that control migration and accumulation at preferred temperatures. Despite these similarities, the underlying molecular, neuronal, and computational mechanisms responsible for thermotaxis are distinct in these organisms. Here, we discuss the role of thermosensation in the development and survival of C. elegans and Drosophila, and review the behavioral strategies, neuronal circuits, and molecular networks responsible for thermotaxis behavior.
genes_dev_2010_garrity.pdf
Ha, H., et al. Functional Organization of a Neural Network for Aversive Olfactory Learning in Caenorhabditis elegans. Neuron 68, 6, 1173-1186 (2010). WebsiteAbstract
Many animals use their olfactory systems to learn to avoid dangers, but how neural circuits encode naive and learned olfactory preferences, and switch between those preferences, is poorly understood. Here, we map an olfactory network, from sensory input to motor output, which regulates the learned olfactory aversion of Caenorhabditis elegans for the smell of pathogenic bacteria. Naive animals prefer smells of pathogens but animals trained with pathogens lose this attraction. We find that two different neural circuits subserve these preferences, with one required for the naive preference and the other specifically for the learned preference. Calcium imaging and behavioral analysis reveal that the naive preference reflects the direct transduction of the activity of olfactory sensory neurons into motor response, whereas the learned preference involves modulations to signal transduction to downstream neurons to alter motor response. Thus, two different neural circuits regulate a behavioral switch between naive and learned olfactory preferences.
neuron_2010_ha.pdf
Fang-Yen, C., et al. Biomechanical analysis of gait adaptation in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 107, 47, 20323-20328 (2010). WebsiteAbstract
To navigate different environments, an animal must be able to adapt its locomotory gait to its physical surroundings. The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, between swimming in water and crawling on surfaces, adapts its locomotory gait to surroundings that impose approximately 10,000-fold differences in mechanical resistance. Here we investigate this feat by studying the undulatory movements of C. elegans in Newtonian fluids spanning nearly five orders of magnitude in viscosity. In these fluids, the worm undulatory gait varies continuously with changes in external load: As load increases, both wavelength and frequency of undulation decrease. We also quantify the internal viscoelastic properties of the worm’s body and their role in locomotory dynamics. We incorporate muscle activity, internal load, and external load into a biomechanical model of locomotion and show that (i) muscle power is nearly constant across changes in locomotory gait, and (ii) the onset of gait adaptation occurs as external load becomes comparable to internal load. During the swimming gait, which is evoked by small external loads, muscle power is primarily devoted to bending the worm’s elastic body. During the crawling gait, evoked by large external loads, comparable muscle power is used to drive the external load and the elastic body. Our results suggest that C. elegans locomotory gait continuously adapts to external mechanical load in order to maintain propulsive thrust.
proc_natl_acad_sci_usa_2010_fang-yen.pdf
Luo, L., et al. Navigational decision-making in Drosophila thermotaxis. Journal of Neuroscience 30, 4261-4272 (2010). WebsiteAbstract

A mechanistic understanding of animal navigation requires quantitative assessment of the sensorimotor strategies used during navigation and quantitative assessment of how these strategies are regulated by cellular sensors. Here, we examine thermotactic behavior of the Drosophila melanogaster larva using a tracking microscope to study individual larval movements on defined temperature gradients. We discover that larval thermotaxis involves a larger repertoire of strategies than navigation in smaller organisms such as motile bacteria and Caenorhabditis elegans. Beyond regulating run length (i.e., biasing a random walk), the Drosophila melanogaster larva also regulates the size and direction of turns to achieve and maintain favorable orientations. Thus, the sharp turns in a larva's trajectory represent decision points for selecting new directions of forward movement. The larva uses the same strategies to move up temperature gradients during positive thermotaxis and to move down temperature gradients during negative thermotaxis. Disrupting positive thermotaxis by inactivating cold-sensitive neurons in the larva's terminal organ weakens all regulation of turning decisions, suggesting that information from one set of temperature sensors is used to regulate all aspects of turning decisions. The Drosophila melanogaster larva performs thermotaxis by biasing stochastic turning decisions on the basis of temporal variations in thermosensory input, thereby augmenting the likelihood of heading toward favorable temperatures at all times.

j_neurosci_2010_luo.pdf
2009
Peidle, J., et al. Inexpensive microscopy for introductory laboratory courses. American Journal of Physics 77, 10, 931-938 (2009). WebsiteAbstract

We present an inexpensive apparatus for bright field and fluorescence microscopy with video capture, suitable for introductory laboratory courses. Experiments on Brownian motion and the Boltzmann distribution of suspended particles in a gravitational field are described. The Boltzmann constant is measured in three ways, and the results fall within 15% of the accepted value.

american_journal_of_..._2009_peidle.pdf
Sengupta, P. & Samuel, A.D. Caenorhabditis elegans: a model system for systems neuroscience. Current Opinion in Neurobiology 19, 6, 637-643 (2009). WebsiteAbstract
The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans is an excellent model organism for a systems-level understanding of neural circuits and behavior. Advances in the quantitative analyses of behavior and neuronal activity, and the development of new technologies to precisely control and monitor the workings of interconnected circuits, now allow investigations into the molecular, cellular, and systems-level strategies that transform sensory inputs into precise behavioral outcomes.
curr_opin_neurobiol_2009_sengupta.pdf
Fang-Yen, C., Avery, L. & Samuel, A.D. Two size-selective mechanisms specifically trap bacteria-sized food particles in Caenorhabditis elegans. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 106, 47, 20093-20096 (2009). WebsiteAbstract
Caenorhabditis elegans is a filter feeder: it draws bacteria suspended in liquid into its pharynx, traps the bacteria, and ejects the liquid. How pharyngeal pumping simultaneously transports and filters food particles has been poorly understood. Here, we use high-speed video microscopy to define the detailed workings of pharyngeal mechanics. The buccal cavity and metastomal flaps regulate the flow of dense bacterial suspensions and exclude excessively large particles from entering the pharynx. A complex sequence of contractions and relaxations transports food particles in two successive trap stages before passage into the terminal bulb and intestine. Filtering occurs at each trap as bacteria are concentrated in the central lumen while fluids are expelled radially through three apical channels. Experiments with microspheres show that the C. elegans pharynx, in combination with the buccal cavity, is tuned to specifically catch and transport particles of a size range corresponding to most soil bacteria.
proc_natl_acad_sci_usa_2009_fang-yen-2.pdf
2008
Zhang, M., et al. A Self-Regulating Feed-Forward Circuit Controlling C. elegans Egg-Laying Behavior. Current Biology 18, 19, 1445-1455 (2008). Publisher's VersionAbstract
Summary Background Egg laying in Caenorhabditis elegans has been well studied at the genetic and behavioral levels. However, the neural basis of egg-laying behavior is still not well understood; in particular, the roles of specific neurons and the functional nature of the synaptic connections in the egg-laying circuit remain uncharacterized. Results We have used in vivo neuroimaging and laser surgery to address these questions in intact, behaving animals. We have found that the HSN neurons play a central role in driving egg-laying behavior through direct excitation of the vulval muscles and VC motor neurons. The VC neurons play a dual role in the egg-laying circuit, exciting the vulval muscles while feedback-inhibiting the HSNs. Interestingly, the HSNs are active in the absence of synaptic input, suggesting that egg laying may be controlled through modulation of autonomous HSN activity. Indeed, body touch appears to inhibit egg laying, in part by interfering with HSN calcium oscillations. Conclusions The egg-laying motor circuit comprises a simple three-component system combining feed-forward excitation and feedback inhibition. This microcircuit motif is common in the C. elegans nervous system, as well as in the mammalian cortex; thus, understanding its functional properties in C. elegans may provide insight into its computational role in more complex brains.
Jung, S., Lee, S. & Samuel, A. Swimming C. elegans in a wet granular medium. Chaos: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Nonlinear Science 18, 4, 041106 (2008). Publisher's Version
Gabel, C., Antoine, F., Chuang, C., Samuel, A.D. & Chang, C. Distinct cellular and molecular mechanisms mediate initial axon development and adult-stage axon regeneration in C. elegans. Development 135, 21, 1129-1136 (2008). WebsiteAbstract
The molecular and cellular mechanisms that allow adult-stage neurons to regenerate following damage are poorly understood. Recently, axons of motoneurons and mechanosensory neurons in adult C. elegans were found to regrow after being snipped by femtosecond laser ablation. Here, we explore the molecular determinants of adult-stage axon regeneration using the AVM mechanosensory neurons. The first step in AVM axon development is a pioneer axonal projection from the cell body to the ventral nerve cord. We show that regeneration of the AVM axon to the ventral nerve cord lacks the deterministic precision of initial axon development, requiring competition and pruning of unwanted axon branches. Nevertheless, axons of injured AVM neurons regrow to the ventral nerve cord with over 60% reliability in adult animals. In addition, in contrast to initial development, axon guidance during regeneration becomes heavily dependent on cytoplasmic protein MIG-10/Lamellipodin but independent of UNC-129/TGF-β repellent and UNC-40/DCC receptor, and axon growth during regeneration becomes heavily dependent on UNC-34/Ena and CED-10/Rac actin regulators. Thus, C. elegans may be used as a genetic system to characterize novel cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying adult-stage nervous system regeneration.
development_2008_gabel.pdf

Pages