Signal transduction through heterotrimeric G proteins is critical for sensory response across species. Regulator of G protein signaling (RGS) proteins are negative regulators of signal transduction. Herein we describe a role for C. elegans RGS-3 in the regulation of sensory behaviors. rgs-3 mutant animals fail to respond to intense sensory stimuli but respond normally to low concentrations of specific odorants. We find that loss of RGS-3 leads to aberrantly increased G protein-coupled calcium signaling but decreased synaptic output, ultimately leading to behavioral defects. Thus, rgs-3 responses are restored by decreasing G protein-coupled signal transduction, either genetically or by exogenous dopamine, by expressing a calcium-binding protein to buffer calcium levels in sensory neurons or by enhancing glutamatergic synaptic transmission from sensory neurons. Therefore, while RGS proteins generally act to downregulate signaling, loss of a specific RGS protein in sensory neurons can lead to defective responses to external stimuli.
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