Visualizing the organization and differentiation of the male-specific nervous system of C. elegans

Tessa Tekieli, Eviatar Yemini, Amin Nejatbakhsh, Chen Wang, Erdem Varol, Robert W. Fernandez, Neda Masoudi, Liam Paninski, Oliver Hobert

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Sex differences in the brain are prevalent throughout the animal kingdom and particularly well appreciated in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, where male animals contain a little-studied set of 93 male-specific neurons. To make these neurons amenable for future study, we describe here how a multicolor reporter transgene, NeuroPAL, is capable of visualizing the distinct identities of all male-specific neurons. We used NeuroPAL to visualize and characterize a number of features of the male-specific nervous system. We provide several proofs of concept for using NeuroPAL to identify the sites of expression of gfp-tagged reporter genes and for cellular fate analysis by analyzing the effect of removal of several developmental patterning genes on neuronal identity acquisition. We use NeuroPAL and its intrinsic cohort of more than 40 distinct differentiation markers to show that, even though male-specific neurons are generated throughout all four larval stages, they execute their terminal differentiation program in a coordinated manner in the fourth larval stage. This coordinated wave of differentiation, which we call 'just-in-time' differentiation, couples neuronal maturation programs with the appearance of sexual organs.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    JournalJournal of Embryology and Experimental Morphology
    Issue number18
    StatePublished - Sep 15 2021


    • C. elegans
    • Nervous system
    • Sex specific

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Molecular Biology
    • Developmental Biology


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