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A direct glia-to-neuron natural transdifferentiation ensures nimble sensory-motor coordination of male mating behaviour

Molina-García, L; Cook, SJ; Kim, B; Bonnington, R; Sammut, M; O'Shea, J; Elliott, D; ... Poole, RJ; + view all (2018) A direct glia-to-neuron natural transdifferentiation ensures nimble sensory-motor coordination of male mating behaviour. BioRxiv Green open access

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Abstract

The coordinated execution of innate, stereotyped sexual behaviours, such as courtship and mating, requires sexually dimorphic sensory-motor circuits that are genetically specified during development (reviewed in [1-3]). Studies in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, in which the development and function of neural circuits can be interrogated with single cell resolution, have revealed two general developmental mechanisms underlying sexual dimorphism in the nervous system. The first involves the acquisition of sexually dimorphic features in sex-shared neurons during sexual maturation, which include changes in terminal gene expression, such as odorant receptors, neurotransmitters and synaptic regulators [4-10]. The second mechanism involves the generation of sex-specific neurons [11-13]. This requires sex-specific cell death [14] or neurogenesis events resulting from extensive sex differences in the cell division patterns and neurodevelopmental programmes of post-embryonic cell lineages (reviewed in [3]). Here we identify a third, novel way to generate sexual dimorphism in the nervous system. We find that during sexual maturation (L4 stage), a class of sex-shared glial cells acquires sexually dimorphic function by undergoing a direct glia-to-neuron transdifferentiation that results in the production of male-specific neurons. This plasticity is regulated cell-intrinsically by the sex-determination pathway. These previously unnoticed neurons, which we term PHDs, are putative proprioceptors that regulate male locomotion during specific steps of mating. One of these steps is a novel readjustment movement performed when intromission becomes difficult to achieve. Our results reveal sex-specific direct transdifferentiation as a novel mechanism for generating sex-specific neurons and also show the importance of proprioceptive feedback during the complex steps of mating for successful reproduction.

Type: Working / discussion paper
Title: A direct glia-to-neuron natural transdifferentiation ensures nimble sensory-motor coordination of male mating behaviour
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1101/285320
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1101/285320
Language: English
Additional information: This is a pre-print version. For information on re-use, please refer to BioRxiv's terms and conditions.
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Div of Biosciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Div of Biosciences > Cell and Developmental Biology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10058813
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