Rewiring neural circuits by the insertion of ectopic electrical synapses in transgenic C. elegans

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Abstract

Neural circuits are functional ensembles of neurons that are selectively interconnected by chemical or electrical synapses. Here we describe a synthetic biology approach to the study of neural circuits, whereby new electrical synapses can be introduced in novel sites in the neuronal circuitry to reprogram behaviour. We added electrical synapses composed of the vertebrate gap junction protein Cx36 between Caenorhabditis elegans chemosensory neurons with opposite intrinsic responses to salt. Connecting these neurons by an ectopic electrical synapse led to a loss of lateral asymmetry and altered chemotaxis behaviour. In a second example, introducing Cx36 into an inhibitory chemical synapse between an olfactory receptor neuron and an interneuron changed the sign of the connection from negative to positive, and abolished the animal' s behavioural response to benzaldehyde. These data demonstrate a synthetic strategy to rewire behavioural circuits by engineering synaptic connectivity in C. elegans. © 2014 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved.

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Rabinowitch, I., Chatzigeorgiou, M., Zhao, B., Treinin, M., & Schafer, W. R. (2014). Rewiring neural circuits by the insertion of ectopic electrical synapses in transgenic C. elegans. Nature Communications, 5. https://doi.org/10.1038/ncomms5442

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