Sensory neuron transcriptomes reveal complex neuron-specific function and regulation of mec-2/Stomatin splicing

Nucleic Acids Res. 2022 Mar 21;50(5):2401-2416. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkab1134.


The function and identity of a cell is shaped by transcription factors controlling transcriptional networks, and further shaped by RNA binding proteins controlling post-transcriptional networks. To overcome limitations inherent to analysis of sparse single-cell post-transcriptional data, we leverage the invariant Caenorhabditis elegans cell lineage, isolating thousands of identical neuron types from thousands of isogenic individuals. The resulting deep transcriptomes facilitate splicing network analysis due to increased sequencing depth and uniformity. We focus on mechanosensory touch-neuron splicing regulated by MEC-8/RBPMS. We identify a small MEC-8-regulated network, where MEC-8 establishes touch-neuron isoforms differing from default isoforms found in other cells. MEC-8 establishes the canonical long mec-2/Stomatin isoform in touch neurons, but surprisingly the non-canonical short isoform predominates in other neurons, including olfactory neurons, and mec-2 is required for olfaction. Forced endogenous isoform-specific expression reveals that the short isoform functions in olfaction but not mechanosensation. The long isoform is functional in both processes. Remarkably, restoring the long isoform completely rescues mec-8 mutant mechanosensation, indicating a single MEC-8 touch-neuron target is phenotypically relevant. Within the long isoform we identify a cassette exon further diversifying mec-2 into long/extra-long isoforms. Neither is sufficient for mechanosensation. Both are simultaneously required, likely functioning as heteromers to mediate mechanosensation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / genetics*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / metabolism
  • Mechanoreceptors / metabolism
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics*
  • RNA Splicing
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / metabolism*
  • Touch
  • Transcriptome*


  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins
  • MEC-2 protein, C elegans
  • Membrane Proteins