BACKGROUND - The simple and well-described structure of the C. elegans nervous system offers an unprecedented opportunity to identify the genetic programs that define the connectivity and function of individual neurons and their circuits. A correspondingly precise gene expression map of C. elegans neurons would facilitate the application of genetic methods toward this goal. Here we describe a powerful new approach, SeqCeL (RNA-Seq of C. elegans cells) for producing gene expression profiles of specific larval C. elegans neurons.
METHODS AND RESULTS - We have exploited available GFP reporter lines for FACS isolation of specific larval C. elegans neurons for RNA-Seq analysis. Our analysis showed that diverse classes of neurons are accessible to this approach. To demonstrate the applicability of this strategy to rare neuron types, we generated RNA-Seq profiles of the NSM serotonergic neurons that occur as a single bilateral pair of cells in the C. elegans pharynx. These data detected >1,000 NSM enriched transcripts, including the majority of previously known NSM-expressed genes.
SIGNIFICANCE - This work offers a simple and robust protocol for expression profiling studies of post-embryonic C. elegans neurons and thus provides an important new method for identifying candidate genes for key roles in neuron-specific development and function.