One of the key aspects of neuronal differentiation is the array of neurotransmitters and neurotransmitter receptors that each neuron possesses. One important goal of developmental neuroscience is to understand how these differentiated properties are established during development. In this paper, we use fluorescence activated cell sorting and RNA-seq to determine the transcriptome of the Drosophila CNS midline cells, which consist of a small number of well-characterized neurons and glia. These data revealed that midline cells express 9 neuropeptide precursor genes, 13 neuropeptide receptor genes, and 31 small-molecule neurotransmitter receptor genes. In situ hybridization and high-resolution confocal analyses were carried-out to determine the midline cell identity for these neuropeptides and the neuropeptide receptors. The results revealed a surprising level of diversity. Neuropeptide genes are expressed in a variety of midline cell types, including motoneurons, GABAergic interneurons, and midline glia. These data revealed previously unknown functional differences among the highly-related iVUM neurons. There also exist segmental differences in expression for the same neuronal sub-type. Similar experiments on midline-expressed neuropeptide receptor genes reveal considerable diversity in synaptic inputs. Multiple receptor types were expressed in midline interneurons and motoneurons, and, in one case, link feeding behavior to gut peristalsis and locomotion. There were also segmental differences, variations between the 3 iVUMs, and three hormone receptor genes were broadly expressed in most midline cells. The Drosophila Castor transcription factor is present at high levels in iVUM5, which is both GABAergic and expresses the short neuropeptide F precursor gene. Genetic and misexpression experiments indicated that castor specifically controls expression of the short neuropeptide F precursor gene, but does not affect iVUM cell fate or expression of Gad1. This indicates a novel function for castor in regulating neuropeptide gene expression. © 2012 Elsevier Inc..
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