Regulation of sensory motor circuits used in C. elegans male intromission behavior.
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Intromission of a male's copulatory organ into his mate's genital orifice is a behavioral step that is conserved in most terrestrial mating behaviors. The behavior serves to anchor the male to his mate and aids in the transmission of the male's gametes into the female. In all animals, the successful execution of intromission likely involves coordinated sensory/motor regulation coupled with constant self-monitoring. The compact male C. elegans reproductive nervous system provides an accessible experimental model for identification and dissection of the molecular and cellular circuit components that promote different motor outputs required for the transfer of the male's genetic material into the self-fertilizing hermaphrodite. The C. elegans male tail contains forty-one sex-specific muscles and 81 sex-specific neurons, which promote different steps of mating behavior. In this review, I will outline the functional contributions of the male-specific sensory-motor neurons and their postsynaptic muscles that control the motions of the male copulatory spicules during the various phases of intromission behavior and ejaculation. In addition, I will summarize the roles of neurotransmitter receptors and ion channels that regulate the outputs of individual circuit components and describe how the intromission circuit uses these molecules to regulate reproductive behavior during male aging and nutritional deprivation.
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