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Genesis. 2014 Jun;52(6):528-43. doi: 10.1002/dvg.22747. Epub 2014 Feb 25.

Development of left/right asymmetry in the Caenorhabditis elegans nervous system: from zygote to postmitotic neuron.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, New York.


Despite their gross morphological symmetry, animal nervous systems can perceive and process information in a left/right asymmetric manner. How left/right asymmetric functional features develop in the context of a bilaterally symmetric structure is a very poorly understood problem, in part because very few morphological or molecular correlates of functional asymmetries have been identified so far in vertebrate or invertebrate nervous systems. One of the very few systems in which a molecular correlate for functional lateralization has been uncovered is the taste sensory system of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, which is composed of a pair of bilaterally symmetric neurons, ASE left (ASEL) and ASE right (ASER). ASEL and ASER are similar in morphology, connectivity, and molecular composition, but they express distinct members of a putative chemoreceptor gene family and respond in a fundamentally distinct manner to taste cues. Extensive forward and reverse genetic analysis has uncovered a complex gene regulatory network, composed of transcription factors, miRNAs, chromatin regulators, and intercellular signals, that instruct the asymmetric features of these two neurons. In this review, this system is described in detail, drawing a relatively complete picture of asymmetry control in a nervous system.


brain asymmetry; gene regulatory network; miRNAs

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