Dioecious species are a hallmark of the animal kingdom, with opposing sexes responding differently to identical sensory cues. Here, we study the response of C. elegans to the small-molecule pheromone, ascr#8, which elicits opposing behavioral valences in each sex. We identify a novel neuropeptide-neuropeptide receptor (NP/NPR) module that is active in males, but not in hermaphrodites. Using a novel paradigm of neuropeptide rescue that we established, we leverage bacterial expression of individual peptides to rescue the sex-specific response to ascr#8. Concurrent biochemical studies confirmed individual FLP-3 peptides differentially activate two divergent receptors, NPR-10 and FRPR-16. Interestingly, the two of the peptides that rescued behavior in our feeding paradigm are related through a conserved threonine, suggesting that a specific NP/NPR combination sets a male state, driving the correct behavioral valence of the ascr#8 response. Receptor expression within pre-motor neurons reveals novel coordination of male-specific and core locomotory circuitries.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience