Cortical circuit tracing using modified rabies virus can identify input neurons making direct monosynaptic connections onto neurons of interest. However, challenges remain in our ability to establish the cell type identity of rabies-labeled input neurons. While transcriptomics may offer an avenue to characterize inputs, the extent of rabies-induced transcriptional changes in distinct neuronal cell types remains unclear, and whether these changes preclude characterization of rabies-infected neurons according to established transcriptomic cell types is unknown. We used single-nucleus RNA sequencing to survey the gene expression profiles of rabies-infected neurons and assessed their correspondence with established transcriptomic cell types. We demonstrated that when using transcriptome-wide RNA profiles, rabies-infected cortical neurons can be transcriptomically characterized despite global and cell-type-specific rabies-induced transcriptional changes. Notably, we found differential modulation of neuronal marker gene expression, suggesting that caution should be taken when attempting to characterize rabies-infected cells with single genes or small gene sets.
Keywords: cell types; circuit tracing; gene expression; rabies virus; transcriptomics.