Toward a system level understanding of C. elegans brain development

2 March 2018

Oliver Hobert
Department of Biological Sciences
Columbia University


Understanding the development of the brain first necessitates a precise description of its component parts, i.e. the tremendously diverse cell types that make up a brain, followed by ensuing studies that define how the individual component parts of a brain acquire their unique and specific characteristics. Owing to its enormous cellular complexity, studies on the vertebrate brain have understandably only yielded rather fragmented insights and no truly system-wide rules of neuronal cell type specification have yet emerged. I will discuss our attempts to decipher common, overarching themes in the development of the C. elegans brain, which is composed of little more than 100 clearly distinct neuron types. Using molecular maps that cover the entire nervous systems as a starting point, we have begun to decipher regulatory information on the level of cis-regulatory elements and trans-acting factors, leading to the emergence of regulatory maps that provide insights into some basic principles of nervous system patterning.

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