The enhancement of sensory responses after prior exposure to a stimulus is a fundamental mechanism of neural function in animals. Its molecular basis, however, has not been studied in asmuchdepth as the reduction of sensory responses, such as adaptation or habituation. We report here that the avoidance behavior of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans in response to repellent odors (2-nonanone or 1-octanol) is enhanced rather than reduced after preexposure to the odors. This enhancement effect of preexposure was maintained for at least 1 h after the conditioning. The enhancement of 2-nonanone avoidance was not dependent on the presence or absence of food during conditioning, which generally functions as a strong positive or negative unconditioned stimulus in the animals. These results suggest that the enhancement is acquired as a type of nonassociative learning. In addition, genetic and pharmacological analyses revealed that the enhancement of 2-nonanone avoidance requires dopamine signaling via D2-like dopamine receptor DOP-3, which functions in a pair of RIC interneurons to regulate the enhancement. Because dopamine signaling has been tightly linked with food-related information to modulate various behaviors of C. elegans, it may play different role in the regulation of the enhancement of 2-nonanone avoidance. Thus, our data suggest a new genetic and pharmacological paradigm for nonassociative enhancement of neural responses that is regulated by dopamine signaling.
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