UMMS Affiliation

Department of Neurobiology; Alkema Lab; Francis Lab; Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Neuroscience Program

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Amino Acids, Peptides, and Proteins | Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience | Molecular Biology | Nervous System


In neural circuits, individual neurons often make projections onto multiple postsynaptic partners. Here, we investigate molecular mechanisms by which these divergent connections are generated, using dyadic synapses in C. elegans as a model. We report that C. elegans nrx-1/neurexin directs divergent connectivity through differential actions at synapses with partnering neurons and muscles. We show that cholinergic outputs onto neurons are, unexpectedly, located at previously undefined spine-like protrusions from GABAergic dendrites. Both these spine-like features and cholinergic receptor clustering are strikingly disrupted in the absence of nrx-1. Excitatory transmission onto GABAergic neurons, but not neuromuscular transmission, is also disrupted. Our data indicate that NRX-1 located at presynaptic sites specifically directs postsynaptic development in GABAergic neurons. Our findings provide evidence that individual neurons can direct differential patterns of connectivity with their post-synaptic partners through partner-specific utilization of synaptic organizers, offering a novel view into molecular control of divergent connectivity.


AChR, C. elegans, dendritic spine, neuroscience, neurotransmission, nicotinic acetylcholine receptor, synapse, synaptic divergence

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Copyright Philbrook et al. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.

DOI of Published Version



Elife. 2018 Jul 24;7. pii: 35692. doi: 10.7554/eLife.35692. Link to article on publisher's site

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Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.