The molecular underpinnings of neuronal cell identity in the stomatogastric ganglion of cancer borealis
Throughout the life of an organism, the nervous system must be able to balance changing in response to environmental stimuli with the need to produce reliable, repeatable activity patterns to create stereotyped behaviors. Understanding the mechanisms responsible for this regulation requires a wealth of knowledge about the neural system, ranging from network connectivity and cell type identification to intrinsic neuronal excitability and transcriptomic expression. To make strides in this area, we have employed the well-described stomatogastric nervous system of the Jonah crab Cancer borealis to examine the molecular underpinnings and regulation of neuron cell identity. Several crustacean circuits, including the stomatogastric nervous system and the cardiac ganglion, continue to provide important new insights into circuit dynamics and modulation (Diehl, White, Stein, & Nusbaum, 2013; Marder, 2012; Marder & Bucher, 2007; Williams et al., 2013), but this work has been partially hampered by the lack of extensive molecular sequence knowledge in crustaceans. Here we generated de novo transcriptome assembly from central nervous system tissue for C. borealis producing 42,766 contigs, focusing on an initial identification, curation, and comparison of genes that will have the most profound impact on our understanding of circuit function in these species. This included genes for 34 distinct ion channel types, 17 biogenic amine and 5 GABA receptors, 28 major transmitter receptor subtypes including glutamate and acetylcholine receptors, and 6 gap junction proteins -- the Innexins. ... With this reference transcriptome and annotated sequences in hand, we sought to determine the strengths and limitations of using the neuronal molecular profile to classify them into cell types. ... Since the resulting activity of a neuron is the product of the expression of ion channel genes, we sought to further probe the expression profile of neurons across a range of cell types to understand how these patterns of mRNA abundance relate to the properties of individual cell types. ... Finally, we sought to better understand the molecular underpinnings of how these correlated patterns of mRNA expression are generated and maintained.
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