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The role of tyramine and octopamine on short-term habituation in Caenorhabditis elegans Cole, Brittany

Abstract

The goal of this thesis is to identify the potential contributions of two largely unstudied monoamines, tyramine and octopamine, in the context of tap habituation; a behavior who’s underlying circuitry heavily expresses genes encoding precursors and receptors for both these neurotransmitters. To pursue this goal I compared habituation of the tap withdrawal response in Caenorhabditis elegans - a model organism with a fully mapped connectome and proteome, and thoroughly characterized habituation - between wild type worms and worms that were null in tyramine and/or octopamine across different timepoints in young adulthood. I discovered that these gene products contribute to only isolated components of this behavior in an age-dependent manner. Although the impacts of these genes was interesting, the study of worms null in both of these precursors failed to find the striking differences in tap habituation that have been studied in animals expressing mutations in dopamine neurotransmission with much less representation in the neural circuitry responsible for this behavior. With some phenotypes identified by these mutations, their contributions to the biological underpinnings unique to each response-component can now be investigated in more detail.

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