Molecular topography of an entire nervous system

Seth R. Taylor, Gabriel Santpere, Alexis Weinreb, Alec Barrett, Molly B. Reilly, Chuan Xu, Erdem Varol, Panos Oikonomou, Lori Glenwinkel, Rebecca McWhirter, Abigail Poff, Manasa Basavaraju, Ibnul Rafi, Eviatar Yemini, Steven J. Cook, Alexander Abrams, Berta Vidal, Cyril Cros, Saeed Tavazoie, Nenad SestanMarc Hammarlund, Oliver Hobert, David M. Miller

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    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.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)4329-4347.e23
    Issue number16
    StatePublished - Aug 5 2021


    • C. elegans
    • RNA-seq
    • cell adhesion molecules
    • connectome
    • gene regulatory motifs
    • neuron
    • neuropeptides
    • single-cell

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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