A core principle of nervous system organization is the diversification of neuron classes into subclasses that share large sets of features but differ in select traits. We describe here a molecular mechanism necessary for motor neurons to acquire subclass-specific traits in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. Cholinergic motor neuron classes of the ventral nerve cord can be subdivided into subclasses al ong the anterior-posterior (A-P) axis based on synaptic connectivity patterns and molecular features. The conserved COE-type terminal selector UNC-3 not only controls the expression of traits shared by all members of a neuron class, but is also required for subclass-specific traits expressed along the A-P axis. UNC-3, which is not regionally restricted, requires region-specific cofactors in the form of Hox proteins to co-activate subclass-specific effector genes in post-mitotic motor neurons. This intersectional gene regulatory principle for neuronal subclass diversification may be conserved from nematodes to mice. © 2017, eLife Sciences Publications Ltd. All rights reserved.
Kratsios, P., Kerk, SY., Catela, C., Liang, J., Vidal, B., Bayer, EA., Feng, W., De La Cruz, ED., Croci, L., Consalez, GG., Mizumoto, K., & Hobert, O. (2017). An intersectional gene regulatory strategy defines subclass diversity of C. Elegans motor neurons. eLife, 6(3), e25751. https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.25751