Targeted molecular profiling of rare olfactory sensory neurons identifies fate, wiring, and functional determinants

Elife. 2021 Mar 5:10:e63036. doi: 10.7554/eLife.63036.


Determining the molecular properties of neurons is essential to understand their development, function and evolution. Using Targeted DamID (TaDa), we characterize RNA polymerase II occupancy and chromatin accessibility in selected Ionotropic receptor (Ir)-expressing olfactory sensory neurons in Drosophila. Although individual populations represent a minute fraction of cells, TaDa is sufficiently sensitive and specific to identify the expected receptor genes. Unique Ir expression is not consistently associated with differences in chromatin accessibility, but rather to distinct transcription factor profiles. Genes that are heterogeneously expressed across populations are enriched for neurodevelopmental factors, and we identify functions for the POU-domain protein Pdm3 as a genetic switch of Ir neuron fate, and the atypical cadherin Flamingo in segregation of neurons into discrete glomeruli. Together this study reveals the effectiveness of TaDa in profiling rare neural populations, identifies new roles for a transcription factor and a neuronal guidance molecule, and provides valuable datasets for future exploration.

Keywords: D. melanogaster; developmental biology; neuron; neuroscience; olfaction; transcriptomics.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified
  • Arthropod Antennae / physiology
  • Chromatin / metabolism
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics
  • Drosophila melanogaster / physiology*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Olfactory Receptor Neurons / physiology*
  • POU Domain Factors
  • RNA Polymerase II / metabolism
  • Receptors, Ionotropic Glutamate / genetics*
  • Receptors, Ionotropic Glutamate / metabolism
  • Transcription Factors


  • Chromatin
  • POU Domain Factors
  • Receptors, Ionotropic Glutamate
  • Transcription Factors
  • RNA Polymerase II