Behavioral plasticity is one of the most important strategies by which animals can adapt to transient environmental changes for their survival. Biological systems must be flexible enough to induce and maintain behavioral plasticity while still being finely regulated, especially in response to life-threatening situations like starvation. Animals produce behavior in response to stimuli, which can be altered when starvation is paired with a range of stimuli (associative learning). Such mechanisms of associative learning have been studied extensively in C. elegans. Use of C. elegans provides an ideal system to study the neural mechanisms of integration of external cues with internal state for multiple reasons. First, C. elegans is one of few organisms for which the complete, stereotyped connectome of neurons is available. This allows researchers efficiently identify the responsible neural circuit for associative learning with stimuli such as odor, salts, and temperature. Secondly, although worms have much simpler structure than higher organisms, genes and signal cascades are surprisingly well conserved. One of the evolutionally conserved signaling pathways, the insulin signaling pathway, plays an important role in nervous system of worms to integrate starvation signaling with environmental cues. This review highlights the recent findings on the function of insulin signaling in starvation-associated behavioral plasticity in C. elegans.
Published Date: 2021-09-10; Received Date: 2021-08-20