The growth and behavior of higher organisms depend on the accurate perception and integration of sensory stimuli by the nervous system. We show that defects in sensory perception in C. elegans result in abnormalities in the growth of the animal and in the expression of alternative behavioral states. Our analysis suggests that sensory neurons modulate neural or neuroendocrine functions, regulating both bodily growth and behavioral state. We identify genes likely to be required for these functions downstream of sensory inputs. Here, we characterize one of these genes as egl-4, which we show encodes a cGMP-dependent protein kinase. We demonstrate that this cGMP-dependent kinase functions in neurons of C. elegans to regulate multiple developmental and behavioral processes including the orchestrated growth of the animal and the expression of particular behavioral states.
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