Background: The conserved DOS-motif proteins OSM-7 and OSM-11 function as coligands with canonical DSL (Delta, Serrate, and LAG-2) ligands to activate C. elegans Notch receptors during development. We report here that Notch ligands, coligands, and the receptors LIN-12 and GLP-1 regulate two C. elegans behaviors: chemosensory avoidance of octanol and quiescence during molting lethargus.
Results: C. elegans lacking osm-7 or osm-11 are defective in their response to octanol. We find that OSM-11 is secreted from hypodermal seam cells into the pseudocoelomic body cavity and acts non-cell autonomously as a diffusible factor. OSM-11 acts with the DSL ligand LAG-2 to activate LIN-12 and GLP-1 Notch receptors in the neurons of adult animals, thereby regulating octanol avoidance response. In adult animals, overexpression of osm-11 and consequent Notch receptor activation induces anachronistic sleep-like quiescence. Perturbation of Notch signaling alters basal activity in adults as well as arousal thresholds and quiescence during molting lethargus. Genetic epistasis studies reveal that Notch signaling regulates quiescence via previously identified circuits and genetic pathways including the egl-4 cGMP-dependent kinase.
Conclusions: Our findings indicate that the conserved Notch pathway modulates behavior in adult C. elegans in response to environmental stress. Additionally, Notch signaling regulates sleep-like quiescence in C. elegans, suggesting that Notch may regulate sleep in other species.