Quantitative expression profiling of identified neurons reveals cell-specific constraints on highly variable levels of gene expression

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007 Aug 7;104(32):13187-91. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0705827104. Epub 2007 Jul 25.


The postdevelopmental basis of cellular identity and the unique cellular output of a particular neuron type are of particular interest in the nervous system because a detailed understanding of circuits responsible for complex processes in the brain is impeded by the often ambiguous classification of neurons in these circuits. Neurons have been classified by morphological, electrophysiological, and neurochemical techniques. More recently, molecular approaches, particularly microarray, have been applied to the question of neuronal identity. With the realization that proteins expressed exclusively in only one type of neuron are rare, expression profiles obtained from neuronal subtypes are analyzed to search for diagnostic patterns of gene expression. However, this expression profiling hinges on one critical and implicit assumption: that neurons of the same type in different animals achieve their conserved functional output via conserved levels and quantitative relationships of gene expression. Here we exploit the unambiguously identifiable neurons in the crab stomatogastric ganglion to investigate the precise quantitative expression profiling of neurons at the level of single-cell ion channel expression. By measuring absolute mRNA levels of six different channels in the same individually identified neurons, we demonstrate that not only do individual cell types possess highly variable levels of channel expression but that this variability is constrained by unique patterns of correlated channel expression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Brachyura
  • Gene Expression Profiling*
  • Ion Channels / genetics*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Neurons / metabolism*


  • Ion Channels

Associated data

  • GENBANK/DQ103254
  • GENBANK/DQ103255
  • GENBANK/DQ103256
  • GENBANK/DQ103257
  • GENBANK/EF089568
  • GENBANK/EF089569