Animals sense and adapt to variable environments by regulating appropriate sensory signal transduction pathways. Here, we show that calcineurin plays a key role in regulating the gain of sensory neuron responsiveness across multiple modalities. C. elegans animals bearing a loss-of-function mutation in TAX-6, a calcineurin A subunit, exhibit pleiotropic abnormalities, including many aberrant sensory behaviors. The tax-6 mutant defect in thermosensation is consistent with hyperactivation of the AFD thermosensory neurons. Conversely, constitutive activation of TAX-6 causes a behavioral phenotype consistent with inactivation of AFD neurons. In olfactory neurons, the impaired olfactory response of tax-6 mutants to an AWC-sensed odorant is caused by hyperadaptation, which is suppressible by a mutation causing defective olfactory adaptation. Taken together, our results suggest that stimulus-evoked calcium entry activates calcineurin, which in turn negatively regulates multiple aspects of sensory signaling.
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