Acetylcholine Signaling Genes are Required for Cocaine-Stimulated Egg Laying in Caenorhabditis elegans
Despite the toxicity and addictive liability associated with cocaine abuse, its mode of action is not completely understood, and effective pharmacotherapeutic interventions remain elusive. The cholinergic effects of cocaine on acetylcholine receptors, synthetic enzymes, and degradative enzymes have been the focus of relatively little empirical investigation. Due to its genetic tractability and anatomical simplicity, the egg laying circuit of the hermaphroditic nematode, Caenorhabditis elegans,
... s a powerful model system to precisely examine the genetic and molecular targets of cocaine in vivo. Here, we report a novel cocaine-induced phenotype in Caenorhabditis elegans, cocaine-stimulated egg laying. In addition, we present the results of an in vivo candidate screen of synthetic enzymes, receptors, degradative enzymes, and downstream components of the intracellular signaling cascades of the main neurotransmitter systems that control Caenorhabditis elegans egg laying. Our results show that cocaine-stimulated egg laying is dependent on acetylcholine synthesis and synaptic release, functional nicotinic acetylcholine receptors, and the Caenorhabditis elegans acetylcholinesterases. Further, we show that cocaine-stimulated egg laying is not dependent on other neurotransmitters besides acetylcholine, including serotonin, dopamine, octopamine, and tyramine. Finally, our data show that cocaine-stimulated egg laying is increased in mutants for the C. elegans serotonin reuptake transporter as well as mutants for a 5-HT-gated chloride channel likely expressed in the locomotion circuit. Together, these results highlight serotonergic inhibition of egg laying behavior, functional connectivity between the egg laying and locomotion circuits in Caenorhabditis elegans, and possible discrete cholinergic and serotonergic effects of cocaine in the egg laying and locomotion circuits, respectively.