Regulatory Logic of Pan-Neuronal Gene Expression in C. elegans

Neuron. 2015 Aug 19;87(4):733-50. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2015.07.031.


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.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / growth & development
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / metabolism*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / biosynthesis*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental*
  • Neurons / metabolism*


  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins