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Open Access Research article

The G Protein regulators EGL-10 and EAT-16, the Giα GOA-1 and the Gqα EGL-30 modulate the response of the C. elegans ASH polymodal nociceptive sensory neurons to repellents

Giovanni Esposito, Maria R Amoroso, Carmela Bergamasco, Elia Di Schiavi and Paolo Bazzicalupo*

Author affiliations

Istituto di Genetica e Biofisica A. Buzzati-Traverso, IGB, CNR, Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, Via P. Castellino 111, 80131, Napoli, Italy

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Citation and License

BMC Biology 2010, 8:138  doi:10.1186/1741-7007-8-138

Published: 11 November 2010

Abstract

Background

Polymodal, nociceptive sensory neurons are key cellular elements of the way animals sense aversive and painful stimuli. In Caenorhabditis elegans, the polymodal nociceptive ASH sensory neurons detect aversive stimuli and release glutamate to generate avoidance responses. They are thus useful models for the nociceptive neurons of mammals. While several molecules affecting signal generation and transduction in ASH have been identified, less is known about transmission of the signal from ASH to downstream neurons and about the molecules involved in its modulation.

Results

We discovered that the regulator of G protein signalling (RGS) protein, EGL-10, is required for appropriate avoidance responses to noxious stimuli sensed by ASH. As it does for other behaviours in which it is also involved, egl-10 interacts genetically with the Go/iα protein GOA-1, the Gqα protein EGL-30 and the RGS EAT-16. Genetic, behavioural and Ca2+ imaging analyses of ASH neurons in live animals demonstrate that, within ASH, EGL-10 and GOA-1 act downstream of stimulus-evoked signal transduction and of the main transduction channel OSM-9. EGL-30 instead appears to act upstream by regulating Ca2+ transients in response to aversive stimuli. Analysis of the delay in the avoidance response, of the frequency of spontaneous inversions and of the genetic interaction with the diacylglycerol kinase gene, dgk-1, indicate that EGL-10 and GOA-1 do not affect signal transduction and neuronal depolarization in response to aversive stimuli but act in ASH to modulate downstream transmission of the signal.

Conclusions

The ASH polymodal nociceptive sensory neurons can be modulated not only in their capacity to detect stimuli but also in the efficiency with which they respond to them. The Gα and RGS molecules studied in this work are conserved in evolution and, for each of them, mammalian orthologs can be identified. The discovery of their role in the modulation of signal transduction and signal transmission of nociceptors may help us to understand how pain is generated and how its control can go astray (such as chronic pain) and may suggest new pain control therapies.