An opioid-like system regulating feeding behavior in C. elegans

Mi Cheong Cheong, Alexander B. Artyukhin, Young Jai You, Leon Avery

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Neuropeptides are essential for the regulation of appetite. Here we show that neuropeptides could regulate feeding in mutants that lack neurotransmission from the motor neurons that stimulate feeding muscles. We identified nlp-24 by an RNAi screen of 115 neuropeptide genes, testing whether they affected growth. NLP-24 peptides have a conserved YGGXX sequence, similar to mammalian opioid neuropeptides. In addition, morphine and naloxone respectively stimulated and inhibited feeding in starved worms, but not in worms lacking NPR-17, which encodes a protein with sequence similarity to opioid receptors. Opioid agonists activated heterologously expressed NPR-17, as did at least one NLP-24 peptide. Worms lacking the ASI neurons, which express npr-17, did not response to naloxone. Thus, we suggest that Caenorhabditis elegans has an endogenous opioid system that acts through NPR-17, and that opioids regulate feeding via ASI neurons. Together, these results suggest C. elegans may be the first genetically tractable invertebrate opioid model.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere06683
StatePublished - Apr 21 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • C. elegans
  • feeding regulation
  • neuropeptide
  • neuroscience
  • opioid

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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