Tmc-1 encodes a sodium-sensitive channel required for salt chemosensation in C. elegans

Marios Chatzigeorgiou, Sangsu Bang, Sun Wook Hwang, William R. Schafer

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Abstract

Transmembrane channel-like (TMC) genes encode a broadly conserved family of multipass integral membrane proteins in animals. Human TMC1 and TMC2 genes are linked to human deafness and required for hair-cell mechanotransduction; however, the molecular functions of these and other TMC proteins have not been determined. Here we show that the Caenorhabditis elegans tmc-1 gene encodes a sodium sensor that functions specifically in salt taste chemosensation. tmc-1 is expressed in the ASH polymodal avoidance neurons, where it is required for salt-evoked neuronal activity and behavioural avoidance of high concentrations of NaCl. However, tmc-1 has no effect on responses to other stimuli sensed by the ASH neurons including high osmolarity and chemical repellents, indicating a specific role in salt sensation. When expressed in mammalian cell culture, C. elegans TMC-1 generates a predominantly cationic conductance activated by high extracellular sodium but not by other cations or uncharged small molecules. Thus, TMC-1 is both necessary for salt sensation in vivo and sufficient to generate a sodium-sensitive channel in vitro, identifying it as a probable ionotropic sensory receptor.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-99
Number of pages5
JournalNature
Volume494
Issue number7435
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2013 Feb 7

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