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Biosystems. 2018 Nov;173:247-255. doi: 10.1016/j.biosystems.2018.09.016. Epub 2018 Sep 27.

The emergent connectome in Caenorhabditis elegans embryogenesis.

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Orthogonal Research and Education Laboratory, Champaign, IL, United States; OpenWorm Foundation, Boston, MA, United States. Electronic address:


The relatively new field of connectomics provides us with a unique window into nervous system function. In the model organism Caenorhabditis elegans, this promise is even greater due to the relatively small number of cells (302) in its nervous system. While the adult C. elegans connectome has been characterized, the emergence of these networks in development has yet to be established. In this paper, we approach this problem using secondary data describing the birth times of terminally-differentiated cells as they appear in the embryo and a connectomics model for nervous system cells in the adult hermaphrodite. By combining these two sources of data, we can better understand patterns that emerge in an incipient connectome. This includes identifying at what point in embryogenesis the cells of a connectome first comes into being, potentially observing some of the earliest neuron-neuron interactions, and making comparisons between the formally-defined connectome and developmental cell lineages. An analysis is also conducted to root terminally-differentiated cells in their developmental cell lineage precursors. This reveals subnetworks with different properties at 300 min of embryogenesis. Additional investigations reveal the spatial position of neuronal cells born during pre-hatch development, both within and outside the connectome model, in the context of all developmental cells in the embryo. Overall, these analyses reveal important information about the birth order of specific cells in the connectome, key building blocks of global connectivity, and how these structures correspond to key events in early development.


Connectomics; Data science; Developmental neurobiology; Embryogenesis; Networks; Systems biology

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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