Oxygen sensation and social feeding mediated by a C. elegans guanylate cyclase homologue

Jesse M. Gray, David S. Karow, Hang Lu, Andy J. Chang, Jennifer S. Chang, Ronald E. Ellis, Michael A. Marietta, Cornelia I. Bargmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

435 Scopus citations


Specialized oxygen-sensing cells in the nervous system generate rapid behavioural responses to oxygen. We show here that the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans exhibits a strong behavioural preference for 5-12% oxygen, avoiding higher and lower oxygen levels. 3′,5′-cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP) is a common second messenger in sensory transduction and is implicated in oxygen sensation. Avoidance of high oxygen levels by C. elegans requires the sensory cGMP-gated channel tax-2/tax-4 and a specific soluble guanylate cyclase homologue, gcy-35. The GCY-35 haem domain binds molecular oxygen, unlike the haem domains of classical nitric-oxide-regulated guanylate cyclases. GCY-35 and TAX-4 mediate oxygen sensation in four sensory neurons that control a naturally polymorphic social feeding behaviour in C. elegans. Social feeding and related behaviours occur only when oxygen exceeds C. elegans' preferred level, and require gcy-35 activity. Our results suggest that GCY-35 is regulated by molecular oxygen, and that social feeding can be a behavioural strategy for responding to hyperoxic environments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)317-322
Number of pages6
Issue number6997
StatePublished - Jul 15 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


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