The genetic basis of natural variation in a phoretic behavior

Daehan Lee, Heeseung Yang, Jun Kim, Shannon Brady, Stefan Zdraljevic, Mostafa Zamanian, Heekyeong Kim, Young Ki Paik, Leonid Kruglyak, Erik C. Andersen, Junho Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


Phoresy is a widespread form of commensalism that facilitates dispersal of one species through an association with a more mobile second species. Dauer larvae of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans exhibit a phoretic behavior called nictation, which could enable interactions with animals such as isopods or snails. Here, we show that natural C. Elegans isolates differ in nictation. We use quantitative behavioral assays and linkage mapping to identify a genetic locus (nict-1) that mediates the phoretic interaction with terrestrial isopods. The nict-1 locus contains a Piwi-interacting small RNA (piRNA) cluster; we observe that the Piwi Argonaute PRG-1 is involved in the regulation of nictation. Additionally, this locus underlies a trade-off between offspring production and dispersal. Variation in the nict-1 locus contributes directly to differences in association between nematodes and terrestrial isopods in a laboratory assay. In summary, the piRNA-rich nict-1 locus could define a novel mechanism underlying phoretic interactions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number273
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Dec 1

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 The Author(s).

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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