Unveiling the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying memory has been a challenge for the past few decades. Although synaptic plasticity is proven to be essential for memory formation, the significance of "single-cell memory" still remains elusive. Here, we exploited a primary culture system for the analysis of C. elegans neurons and show that a single thermosensory neuron has an ability to form, retain, and reset a temperature memory. Genetic and proteomic analyses found that the expression of the single-cell memory exhibits inter-individual variability, which is controlled by the evolutionarily conserved CaMKI/IV and Raf pathway. The variable responses of a sensory neuron influenced the neural activity of downstream interneurons, suggesting that modulation of the sensory neurons ultimately determines the behavioral output in C. elegans. Our results provide proof of single-cell memory and suggest that the individual differences in neural responses at the single-cell level can confer individuality. Kobayashi et al. show that a single sensory neuron can memorize information without any neural connections and suggest that single-cell memory can underlie differences between individual responses.
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