The role of multiple chemotactic mechanisms in a model of chemotaxis in C. elegans: different mechanisms are specialised for different environments
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Unlike simpler organisms, C. elegans possesses several distinct chemosensory pathways and chemotactic mechanisms. These mechanisms and pathways are individually capable of driving chemotaxis in a chemical concentration gradient. However, it is not understood if they are redundant or co-operate in more sophisticated ways. Here we examine the specialisation of different chemotactic mechanisms in a model of chemotaxis to NaCl. We explore the performance of different chemotactic mechanisms in a range of chemical gradients and show that, in the model, far from being redundant, the mechanisms are specialised both for different environments and for distinct features within those environments. We also show that the chemotactic drive mediated by the ASE pathway is not robust to the presence of noise in the chemical gradient. This problem cannot be solved along the ASE pathway without destroying its ability to drive chemotaxis. Instead, we show that robustness to noise can be achieved by introducing a second, much slower NaCl-sensing pathway. This secondary pathway is simpler than the ASE pathway, in the sense that it can respond to either up-steps or down-steps in NaCl but not both, and could correspond to one of several candidates in the literature which we identify and evaluate. This work provides one possible explanation of why there are multiple NaCl sensing pathways and chemotactic mechanisms in C. elegans: rather than being redundant the different pathways and mechanism are specialised both for the characteristics of different environments and for distinct features within a single environment.
KeywordsC. elegans Chemotaxis ASE Sodium chloride
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