Glia-derived neurons are required for sex-specific learning in C. Elegans

Michele Sammut, Steven J. Cook, Ken C.Q. Nguyen, Terry Felton, David H. Hall, Scott W. Emmons, Richard J. Poole, Arantza Barrios

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

78 Scopus citations


Sex differences in behaviour extend to cognitive-like processes such as learning, but the underlying dimorphisms in neural circuit development and organization that generate these behavioural differences are largely unknown. Here we define at the single-cell level - from development, through neural circuit connectivity, to function - the neural basis of a sex-specific learning in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. We show that sexual conditioning, a form of associative learning, requires a pair of male-specific interneurons whose progenitors are fully differentiated glia. These neurons are generated during sexual maturation and incorporated into pre-exisiting sex-shared circuits to couple chemotactic responses to reproductive priorities. Our findings reveal a general role for glia as neural progenitors across metazoan taxa and demonstrate that the addition of sex-specific neuron types to brain circuits during sexual maturation is an important mechanism for the generation of sexually dimorphic plasticity in learning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)385-390
Number of pages6
Issue number7573
StatePublished - Oct 14 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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