Brains are highly parallel information processors. Their neural circuits continuously integrate sensory inputs to generate appropriate behavioural responses.
We are interested in understanding how neural networks are functionally assembled, how they integrate information, and how they evolve.
C. elegans is a powerful system to study neural circuits. The worm has exactly 302 neurons (compared to ~1011 in us), each of which can be uniquely identified by morphology and position.
The synaptic connections made by each neuron have been reconstructed by electron microscopy, providing a wiring diagram of the neural circuits.
By combining genetic, molecular, and cell biological approaches with electrophysiology and neural imaging techniques we can dissect how these circuits work.
The nematode inhabits soil where it feeds on microorganisms. To forage for food C. elegans integrates multiple sensory cues, including signals from bacteria, other animals, ambient gases such as O2 and CO2, and internal nutritional state.
We are studying the genetic and neural architectures that allow these responses to be integrated together and modified by experience. Different natural isolates exhibit different foraging strategies thereby also providing an opportunity to investigate how behaviour evolves.
A particular focus is on neuropeptides. Neuropeptides are potent regulators of behaviour but their biology is poorly understood. Neural signalling components are well conserved between C. elegans and mammals, so that results from the worm are often applicable to mammals.
- Fenk L. A., de Bono M. (2017)
Memory of recent oxygen experience switches pheromone valence in Caenorhabditis elegans
Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 114(16): 4195-4200.
- Chen, C., Itakura, E., Nelson, G., Sheng, M., Laurent, P., Fenk, L.A., Butcher, R.A., Hegde, R.S and de Bono, M. (2017)
L-17 is a neuromodulator of Caenorhabditis elegans sensory responses
Nature 542(7639): 43-48.
- Busch, K.E., Laurent, P., Soltesz, Z., Murphy, R.J., Faivre, O., Hedwig, B., Thomas, M., Smith, H.L. and de Bono, M. (2012)
Tonic signaling from O(2) sensors sets neural circuit activity and behavioral state.
Nat Neurosci 15: 581–591.
- Murat Artan
- Stephen Barratt
- Isabel Beets
- Sean Flynn
- Paula Freire Pritchett
- Giulio Valperga