The Caenorhabditis elegans hermaphrodite nervous system is composed of 302 neurons that fall into at least 118 diverse classes. Here we describe cfi-1, a gene that contributes to the development of neuronal diversity. cfi-1 promotes appropriate differentiation of the URA sensory neurons and inhibits URA from expressing the male-specific CEM neuronal fate. The UNC-86 POU homeodomain protein is present in CEM and URA neurons, and can promote expression of CEM-specific genes in both CEM and URA, but CFI-1 inhibits expression of these genes in the URA cells. cfi-1 also promotes appropriate differentiation and glutamate receptor expression in the AVD and PVC interneurons. cfi-1 encodes a conserved neuron- and muscle-restricted DNA-binding protein containing an A/T rich interaction domain (ARID). ARID proteins regulate early patterning and muscle fate in Drosophila, but they have not previously been implicated in the control of neuronal subtype identity.
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