Map Making in C. elegans: Charting the Nervous System
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The developmental history and anatomy of the nematode C.elegans has been exceptionally well mapped. The next frontier lies in taking maps to the next level, that of molecular maps which define the identity and function of unique cell types. Defining molecular maps is in particularly high demand in the context of the nervous system. For example, the C.elegans connectome, which still remains the only connectome of any nervous system, begs the question how neurons communicate with one another. I will describe our efforts to build a comprehensive neurotransmitter map of the C.elegans nervous system and I will then use this neurotransmitter map to describe our efforts to provide “regulatory maps” which explain how neurotransmitter identity is genetically programmed and how this critical identity feature of a neuron is linked to other identity features of a neuron. The underlying vision that guides our research is to understand on a true system-wide level how a nervous system is built.