NMDAR-mediated modulation of gap junction circuit regulates olfactory learning in C. elegans

Published Date: 
July 10, 2020

Modulation of gap junction-mediated electrical synapses is a common form of neural plasticity. However, the behavioral consequence of the modulation and the underlying molecular cellular mechanisms are not understood. Here, using a C. elegans circuit of interneurons that are connected by gap junctions, we show that modulation of the gap junctions facilitates olfactory learning. Learning experience weakens the gap junctions and induces a repulsive sensory response to the training odorants, which together decouple the responses of the interneurons to the training odorants to generate learned olfactory behavior. The weakening of the gap junctions results from downregulation of the abundance of a gap junction molecule, which is regulated by cell-autonomous function of the worm homologs of a NMDAR subunit and CaMKII. Thus, our findings identify the function of a gap junction modulation in an in vivo model of learning and a conserved regulatory pathway underlying the modulation.