While neuronal cell types display an astounding degree of phenotypic diversity, most if not all neuron types share a core panel of terminal features. However, little is known about how pan-neuronal expression patterns are genetically programmed. Through an extensive analysis of the cis-regulatory control regions of a battery of pan-neuronal C. elegans genes, including genes involved in synaptic vesicle biology and neuropeptide signaling, we define a common organizational principle in the regulation of pan-neuronal genes in the form of a surprisingly complex array of seemingly redundant, parallel-acting cis-regulatory modules that direct expression to broad, overlapping domains throughout the nervous system. These parallel-acting cis-regulatory modules are responsive to a multitude of distinct trans-acting factors. Neuronal gene expression programs therefore fall into two fundamentally distinct classes. Neuron-type-specific genes are generally controlled by discrete and non-redundantly acting regulatory inputs, while pan-neuronal gene expression is controlled by diverse, coincident and seemingly redundant regulatory inputs.
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