Genetics of Behavior in C. elegans

Denise S. Walker, Yee Lian Chew, William R. Schafer

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans is among the most intensely studied animals in modern experimental biology. In particular, because of its amenability to classical and molecular genetics, its simple and compact nervous system, and its transparency to optogenetic recording and manipulation, C. elegans has been widely used to investigate how individual gene products act in the context of neuronal circuits to generate behavior. C. elegans is the first and at present the only animal whose neuronal connectome has been characterized at the level of individual neurons and synapses, and the wiring of this connectome shows surprising parallels with the micro- and macro-level structures of larger brains. This chapter reviews our current molecular- and circuit-level understanding of behavior in C. elegans. In particular, we discuss mechanisms underlying the processing of sensory information, the generation of specific motor outputs, and the control of behavioral states.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Invertebrate Neurobiology
EditorsJohn H Byrne
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780190456788
ISBN (Print)9780190456757
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Caenorhabditis elegans
  • neuronal connectome
  • neuronal circuits
  • sensory information
  • motor outputs
  • behavioral states


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