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Alkema Lab - PLOS Genetics Publication

Date Posted: Thursday, March 03, 2022

Neurons communicate using multiple transmitters, but how are these signals translated into behavior? A recent publication from Jeremy Florman from the Alkema Lab at UMass Chan Medical School demonstrates how co-transmission of a monoamine and a neuropeptide orchestrate flight behavior in the nematode C. elegans.

Co-transmission is a form of neuronal communication where multiple signaling molecules are released from an individual cell. It is commonly found in nervous systems across species that monoamines and neuropeptides are co-released and affect the properties of target cells.  In humans, adrenaline and neuropeptide Y are co-released from sympathetic neurons where they increase blood pressure and heart rate during the fight-or-flight response. The complexity of the human nervous system makes it very hard to figure out how these signaling molecules interact to change behavior and physiology. Here, we use the nematode C. elegans to study how co-transmission of the invertebrate analog of adrenaline, tyramine, and a neuropeptide, FLP-18, coordinate the distinct motor programs of the flight response. We find that FLP-18 and tyramine act together to shape different phases of the flight response. Our findings illuminate the cellular mechanisms by which co-transmission of monoamines and neuropeptides orchestrate a flight response.