Expression profiling of GABAergic motor neurons in Caenorhabditis elegans

Curr Biol. 2005 Feb 22;15(4):340-6. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2005.02.025.


Neurons constitute the most diverse cell types and acquire their identity by the activity of particular genetic programs . The GABAergic nervous system in C. elegans consists of 26 neurons that fall into six classes . Animals that are defective in GABAergic neuron function and development display "shrinker" movement , abnormal foraging and defecation . Among the known shrinker genes, unc-25 and unc-47 encode the GABA biosynthetic enzyme glutamic acid decarboxylase and vesicular transporter, respectively . unc-30 encodes a homeodomain protein of the Pitx family and regulates the differentiation of the D-type GABAergic neurons . unc-46 probably functions in presynaptic GABA release , but its identity has not been reported. By cell-based microarray analysis, we identified over 250 genes with enriched expression in GABAergic neurons. The highly enriched gene set included all known genes. In vivo expression study with computational predictions further identified six new genes that are potential transcriptional targets of UNC-30. Behavioral studies of a deletion mutant implicate a function of a nicotinic receptor subunit in D-type neurons. Our analysis demonstrates the utility of neuron-specific genomics in identifying cell-specific genes and regulatory networks.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / metabolism*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / genetics
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / metabolism
  • DNA Primers
  • Flow Cytometry
  • GABA Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Gene Expression Profiling*
  • Genes / genetics*
  • Genomics / methods
  • Homeodomain Proteins / genetics
  • Homeodomain Proteins / metabolism
  • Membrane Transport Proteins / genetics
  • Membrane Transport Proteins / metabolism
  • Motor Neurons / metabolism*
  • Movement / physiology
  • Nuclear Proteins / genetics
  • Nuclear Proteins / metabolism
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Vesicular Inhibitory Amino Acid Transport Proteins
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / biosynthesis*


  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins
  • DNA Primers
  • GABA Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • Vesicular Inhibitory Amino Acid Transport Proteins
  • unc-30 protein, C elegans
  • unc-47 protein, C elegans
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid