Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

Natural variation in Pristionchus pacificus insect pheromone attraction involves the protein kinase EGL-4.

PMID 18509055


The geographical mosaic theory of coevolution predicts that different local species interactions will shape population traits, but little is known about the molecular factors involved in mediating the specificity of these interactions. Pristionchus nematodes associate with different scarab beetles around the world, with Pristionchus pacificus isolated primarily from the oriental beetle in Japan. In particular, the constituent populations of P. pacificus represent a rare opportunity to study multiple specialized interactions and the mechanisms that influence population traits at the genetic level. We identified a component of the cGMP signaling pathway to be involved in the natural variation for sensing the insect pheromone ETDA, using targeted introgression lines, exogenous cGMP treatment, and a null egl-4 allele. Our data strongly implicate egl-4 as one of several loci involved in behavioral variation in P. pacificus populations. That EGL-4 homologs have been independently implicated for behavioral variations in other invertebrate models suggests that EGL-4 may act as a modulator for interspecies behavioral repertoires across large phylogenetic distances.