Cilia on dendritic endings of sensory neurons organize distinct types of sensory machinery . Ciliated endings display neuron-type-specific patterns of membrane elaborations [1-3], but it is not well understood how such neuron-type-specific morphologies are generated and whether they are coupled to the specification of other identity aspects of a terminally differentiated sensory neuron. In the course of a genome-wide analysis of members of a small family of immunoglobulin domain proteins, we found that OIG-8, a previously uncharacterized transmembrane protein with a single immunoglobulin (Ig) domain, instructs the distinct, neuron-type-specific elaboration of ciliated endings of different olfactory neuron types in the nematode C. elegans. OIG-8 protein localizes to ciliated endings of these sensory neurons, and is transcribed at different levels in distinct olfactory neuron types. oig-8 expression levels correlate with the extent of sensory cilia growth and branching patterns. Loss of oig-8 leads to a reduction in the branching patterns of cilia, whereas raising the levels of oig-8 results in an increase in elaborations. Levels of OIG-8 expression are controlled by the specific combination of a terminal selector type of transcription factors that also specify other identity features of distinct olfactory neuron types.
Keywords: C. elegans; cilia; neuronal diversity.
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