A FUNCTIONAL GENOMICS GUIDE TO IDENTIFY NEURONS
Identifying the neuronal cell types in the mammalian forebrain is a central unsolved problem in basic neuroscience, and our understanding of brain physiology is limited by our inability to identify and classify its neurons. A new study uses a functional genomics approach to identify the molecular basis of neuronal identity (Ken Sugino et al., Molecular taxonomy of major neuronal classes in the adult mouse forebrain. Nature Neurosience 9, 99-107, 2005).
Global gene expression offers a potentially unbiased way to asses functional relationships between neurons. The authors constructed a taxonomic tree that indicated highly heterogeneous gene expression even within a single region. Their dataset is useful for the classification of unknown neuronal subtypes, the investigation of specifically expressed genes and the genetic manipulation of specific neuronal circuit elements.