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Cell. 2013 Jan 17;152(1-2):109-19. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2012.12.013.

System-wide rewiring underlies behavioral differences in predatory and bacterial-feeding nematodes.

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Department for Evolutionary Biology, Max-Planck-Institute for Developmental Biology, Spemannstrasse 37, 72076 Tübingen, Germany.


The relationship between neural circuit function and patterns of synaptic connectivity is poorly understood, in part due to a lack of comparative data for larger complete systems. We compare system-wide maps of synaptic connectivity generated from serial transmission electron microscopy for the pharyngeal nervous systems of two nematodes with divergent feeding behavior: the microbivore Caenorhabditis elegans and the predatory nematode Pristionchus pacificus. We uncover a massive rewiring in a complex system of identified neurons, all of which are homologous based on neurite anatomy and cell body position. Comparative graph theoretical analysis reveals a striking pattern of neuronal wiring with increased connectional complexity in the anterior pharynx correlating with tooth-like denticles, a morphological feature in the mouth of P. pacificus. We apply focused centrality methods to identify neurons I1 and I2 as candidates for regulating predatory feeding and predict substantial divergence in the function of pharyngeal glands.

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