Google Research

Whole-animal connectomes of both Caenorhabditis elegans sexes

  • Steven J. Cook
  • Travis A. Jarrell
  • Christopher A. Brittin
  • Yi Wang
  • Adam E. Bloniarz
  • Maksim A. Yakovlev
  • Ken C. Q. Nguyen
  • Leo T.-H. Tang
  • Emily A. Bayer
  • Janet S. Duerr
  • Hannes E. Bülow
  • Oliver Hobert
  • David H. Hall
  • Scott W. Emmons
Nature, vol. 571 (2019), pp. 63-71


Knowledge of connectivity in the nervous system is essential to understanding its function. Here we describe connectomes for both adult sexes of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, an important model organism for neuroscience research. We present quantitative connectivity matrices that encompass all connections from sensory input to end-organ output across the entire animal, information that is necessary to model behaviour. Serial electron microscopy reconstructions that are based on the analysis of both new and previously published electron micrographs update previous results and include data on the male head. The nervous system differs between sexes at multiple levels. Several sex-shared neurons that function in circuits for sexual behaviour are sexually dimorphic in structure and connectivity. Inputs from sex-specific circuitry to central circuitry reveal points at which sexual and non-sexual pathways converge. In sex-shared central pathways, a substantial number of connections differ in strength between the sexes. Quantitative connectomes that include all connections serve as the basis for understanding how complex, adaptive behavior is generated.

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