To search for general principles underlying neuronal regulatory programs we built an RNA interference library against all transcription factors (TFs) encoded in C. elegans genome and systematically screened for specification defects in ten different neuron types of the monoaminergic (MA) superclass. We identified over 90 TFs involved in MA specification, with at least ten different TFs controlling differentiation of each individual neuron type. These TFs belong predominantly to five TF families (HD, bHLH, ZF, bZIP and NHR). Next, focusing on the complexity of terminal differentiation, we identified and functionally characterized the dopaminergic terminal regulatory program. We found that seven TFs from four different families act in a TF collective to provide genetic robustness and to impose a specific gene regulatory signature enriched in the regulatory regions of dopamine effector genes. Our results provide new insights on neuron-type regulatory programs that could help better understand specification and evolution of neuron types.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience