Activation of RHO-1 in cholinergic motor neurons competes with dopamine signalling to control locomotion

Essmann, C.; Ryan, R.; Elmi, M.; Byron-Dodd, K.; Porter, A.; Vaughan, A.; McMullan, R. and Nurrish, S. (2018). Activation of RHO-1 in cholinergic motor neurons competes with dopamine signalling to control locomotion. PLoS ONE, 13(9) e0204057.



The small GTPase RhoA plays a crucial role in the regulation of neuronal signalling to generate behaviour. In the developing nervous system RhoA is known to regulate the actin cytoskeleton, however the effectors of RhoA-signalling in adult neurons remain largely unidentified. We have previously shown that activation of the RhoA ortholog (RHO-1) in C. elegans cholinergic motor neurons triggers hyperactivity of these neurons and loopy locomotion with exaggerated body bends. This is achieved in part through increased diacylglycerol (DAG) levels and the recruitment of the synaptic vesicle protein UNC-13 to synaptic release sites, however other pathways remain to be identified. Dopamine, which is negatively regulated by the dopamine re-uptake transporter (DAT), has a central role in modulating locomotion in both humans and C. elegans. In this study we identify a new pathway in which RHO-1 regulates locomotory behaviour by repressing dopamine signalling, via DAT-1, linking these two pathways together. We observed an upregulation of dat-1 expression when RHO-1 is activated and show that loss of DAT-1 inhibits the loopy locomotion phenotype caused by RHO-1 activation. Reducing dopamine signalling in dat-1 mutants through mutations in genes involved in dopamine synthesis or in the dopamine receptor DOP-1 restores the ability of RHO-1 to trigger loopy locomotion in dat-1 mutants. Taken together, we show that negative regulation of dopamine signalling via DAT-1 is necessary for the neuronal RHO-1 pathway to regulate locomotion.

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