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Molecular topography of an entire nervous system


Taylor SRSeth R , Santpere GGabriel , Weinreb AAlexis , Barrett AAlec , Reilly MBMolly B , Xu CChuan , Varol EErdem , Oikonomou PPanos , Glenwinkel LLori , McWhirter RRebecca , Poff AAbigail , Basavaraju MManasa , Rafi IIbnul , Yemini EEviatar , Cook SJSteven J , Abrams AAlexander , Vidal BBerta , Cros CCyril , Tavazoie SSaeed , Sestan NNenad , Hammarlund MMarc , Hobert OOliver , Miller DMDavid M . Cell. 2021 07 02; ().


We have produced gene expression profiles of all 302 neurons of the C. elegans nervous system that match the single-cell resolution of its anatomy and wiring diagram. Our results suggest that individual neuron classes can be solely identified by combinatorial expression of specific gene families. For example, each neuron class expresses distinct codes of ∼23 neuropeptide genes and ∼36 neuropeptide receptors, delineating a complex and expansive “wireless” signaling network. To demonstrate the utility of this comprehensive gene expression catalog, we used computational approaches to (1) identify cis-regulatory elements for neuron-specific gene expression and (2) reveal adhesion proteins with potential roles in process placement and synaptic specificity. Our expression data are available at and can be interrogated at the web application CengenApp. We expect that this neuron-specific directory of gene expression will spur investigations of underlying mechanisms that define anatomy, connectivity, and function throughout the C. elegans nervous system.