Cell excitability necessary for male mating behavior in Caenorhabditis elegans is coordinated by interactions between big current and ether-a-go-go family K(+) channels.

Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Department of Biology, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas 77843, USA.
Genetics (Impact Factor: 4.87). 12/2011; 190(3):1025-41. DOI: 10.1534/genetics.111.137455
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Variations in K(+) channel composition allow for differences in cell excitability and, at an organismal level, provide flexibility to behavioral regulation. When the function of a K(+) channel is disrupted, the remaining K(+) channels might incompletely compensate, manifesting as abnormal organismal behavior. In this study, we explored how different K(+) channels interact to regulate the neuromuscular circuitry used by Caenorhabditis elegans males to protract their copulatory spicules from their tail and insert them into the hermaphrodite's vulva during mating. We determined that the big current K(+) channel (BK)/SLO-1 genetically interacts with ether-a-go-go (EAG)/EGL-2 and EAG-related gene/UNC-103 K(+) channels to control spicule protraction. Through rescue experiments, we show that specific slo-1 isoforms affect spicule protraction. Gene expression studies show that slo-1 and egl-2 expression can be upregulated in a calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II-dependent manner to compensate for the loss of unc-103 and conversely, unc-103 can partially compensate for the loss of SLO-1 function. In conclusion, an interaction between BK and EAG family K(+) channels produces the muscle excitability levels that regulate the timing of spicule protraction and the success of male mating behavior.

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    ABSTRACT: We examined the evolutionary origins of the ether-à-go-go (EAG) family of voltage-gated K(+) channels, which have a strong influence on the excitability of neurons. The bilaterian EAG family comprises three gene subfamilies (Eag, Erg and Elk) distinguished by sequence conservation and functional properties. Searches of genome sequence indicate that EAG channels are metazoan specific, appearing first in ctenophores. However, phylogenetic analysis including two EAG family channels from the ctenophore Mnemiopsis leidyi indicates that the diversification of the Eag, Erg and Elk gene subfamilies occurred in a cnidarian/bilaterian ancestor after divergence from ctenophores. Erg channel function is highly conserved between cnidarians and mammals. Here we show that Eag and Elk channels from the sea anemone Nematostella vectensis (NvEag and NvElk) also share high functional conservation with mammalian channels. NvEag, like bilaterian Eag channels, has rapid kinetics, whereas NvElk activates at extremely hyperpolarized voltages, which is characteristic of Elk channels. Potent inhibition of voltage activation by extracellular protons is conserved between mammalian and Nematostella EAG channels. However, characteristic inhibition of voltage activation by Mg(2+) in Eag channels and Ca(2+) in Erg channels is reduced in Nematostella because of mutation of a highly conserved aspartate residue in the voltage sensor. This mutation may preserve sub-threshold activation of Nematostella Eag and Erg channels in a high divalent cation environment. mRNA in situ hybridization of EAG channels in Nematostella suggests that they are differentially expressed in distinct cell types. Most notable is the expression of NvEag in cnidocytes, a cnidarian-specific stinging cell thought to be a neuronal subtype. © 2015. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd.
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    ABSTRACT: The circuit structure and function underlying post-coital male behaviors remain poorly understood. Using mutant analysis, laser ablation, optogenetics and Ca2+ imaging, we observed that following C. elegans male copulation, the duration of post-coital lethargy is coupled to cellular events involved in ejaculation. We show that the SPV and SPD spicule-associated sensory neurons and the spicule socket neuronal support cells function with intromission circuit components, including the cholinergic SPC and PCB and the glutamatergic PCA sensory-motor neurons, to coordinate sex muscle contractions with initiation and continuation of sperm movement. Our observations suggest that the SPV and SPD and their associated dopamine-containing socket cells sense the intrauterine environment through cellular endings exposed at the spicule tips and regulate both sperm release into the hermaphrodite and the recovery from post-coital lethargy.
    eLife Sciences 06/2014; DOI:10.7554/eLife.02938 · 8.52 Impact Factor


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