Molecular Basis of Chemo-Tactile Sensation in Octopus


August 11, 2020 - 1:00pm - 2:30pm
About the Speaker
Lena van Giesen
Speaker Title: 
Postdoctoral Fellow, MCB, Bellono Lab

 Octopuses are voracious hunters that use their eight flexible arms to explore benthic environments for food hidden within crevices on the seafloor. Their uniquely-distributed nervous system allows for independent control of each arm and the individual suction cups which cover their surface. How the arm detects and encodes diverse sensory information to mediate complex autonomous behaviors is unknown. Here we show that the sensory epithelium of the suction cups contains discrete chemo- and mechanosensory cells that serve as primary receptors. Cephalopod-specific chemotactile receptors (CRs) are expressed in the chemoreceptor cells to detect poorly-soluble natural compounds in a contact-dependent manner. CRs can form diverse ion channel complexes that mediate detection of distinct stimuli and transduction of specific ionic signals. Furthermore, discrete mechanosensory cells use NompC mechanoreceptors and phasic electrical properties to encode touch signals. Thus, the suction cup is a bona fide sensory organ capable of immense signal filtering, even at the level of the sensory receptor. These studies highlight how molecular, cellular, and anatomical adaptations synergistically support evolutionary novelty suited to an animal’s ecological niche and behavior.