A Tyramine-Gated Chloride Channel Coordinates Distinct Motor Programs of a Caenorhabditis elegans Escape Response

Student Author(s)

Jennifer Pirri; Jamie Donnelly

GSBS Program


UMMS Affiliation

Department of Neurobiology



Document Type


Medical Subject Headings

Adrenergic Uptake Inhibitors; Analysis of Variance; Animals; Animals, Genetically Modified; Behavior, Animal; Caenorhabditis elegans; Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins; Chloride Channels; Dose-Response Relationship, Drug; Electric Stimulation; Escape Reaction; Gene Expression; Green Fluorescent Proteins; Head Movements; Ion Channel Gating; Locomotion; Membrane Potentials; Mutation; Neck Muscles; Oocytes; Patch-Clamp Techniques; Physical Stimulation; Sequence Analysis, Protein; Tyramine; Xenopus laevis


Life Sciences | Medicine and Health Sciences | Neuroscience and Neurobiology


A key feature of escape responses is the fast translation of sensory information into a coordinated motor output. In C. elegans, anterior touch initiates a backward escape response in which lateral head movements are suppressed. Here, we show that tyramine inhibits head movements and forward locomotion through the activation of a tyramine-gated chloride channel, LGC-55. lgc-55 mutant animals have defects in reversal behavior and fail to suppress head oscillations in response to anterior touch. lgc-55 is expressed in neurons and muscle cells that receive direct synaptic inputs from tyraminergic motor neurons. Therefore, tyramine can act as a classical inhibitory neurotransmitter. Activation of LGC-55 by tyramine coordinates the output of two distinct motor programs, locomotion and head movements that are critical for a C. elegans escape response.

Rights and Permissions

Pirri, J.K., McPherson, A.D., Donnelly, J.L., Francis, M.M., and Alkema, M.J. (2009). A Tyramine-Gated Chloride Channel Coordinates Distinct Motor Programs of a Caenorhabditis elegans Escape Response. Neuron. 62, 528-536. Link to article on publisher's website


Article's Supplemental Data include six figures and five movies and can be found with this article online.


Related Resources

Link to article in PubMed