J Exp Biol 2017 07 11;220(Pt 14):2616-2625. Epub 2017 May 11.
Department of Biological Sciences, Western Michigan University, 1903 W. Michigan Avenue, Kalamazoo, MI 49008, USA
Although light is most commonly thought of as a visual cue, many animals possess mechanisms to detect light outside of the eye for various functions, including predator avoidance, circadian rhythms, phototaxis and migration. Here we confirm that planarians (like , leeches and larvae) are capable of detecting and responding to light using extraocular photoreception. We found that, when either eyeless or decapitated worms were exposed to near-ultraviolet (near-UV) light, intense wild-type photophobic behaviors were still observed. Our data also revealed that behavioral responses to green wavelengths were mediated by ocular mechanisms, whereas near-UV responses were driven by extraocular mechanisms. As part of a candidate screen to uncover the genetic basis of extraocular photoreception in the planarian species , we identified a potential role for a homolog of the transient receptor potential channel A1 () in mediating behavioral responses to extraocular light cues. RNA interference (RNAi) to resulted in worms that lacked extraocular photophobic responses to near-UV light, a mechanism previously only identified in These data show that the planarian homolog is required for planarian extraocular-light avoidance and may represent a potential ancestral function of this gene. TRPA1 is an evolutionarily conserved detector of temperature and chemical irritants, including reactive oxygen species that are byproducts of UV-light exposure. Our results suggest that planarians possess extraocular photoreception and display an unconventional TRPA1-mediated photophobic response to near-UV light.