Neuron tracing and quantitative analyses of dendritic architecture reveal symmetrical three-way-junctions and phenotypes of git-1 in C. elegans
Omer Yuval, Yael Iosilevskii, Benjamin Podbilewicz, Tom Shemesh
AbstractComplex dendritic trees are a distinctive feature of neurons. Alterations to dendritic morphology are associated with developmental, behavioral and neurodegenerative diseases. The highly-arborized PVD neuron of C. elegans serves as a model to study dendritic patterning; however, quantitative, objective and automated analyses of PVD morphology are missing. Here, we present a method for neuronal feature extraction, based on deep-learning and fitting algorithms. The extracted neuronal
... tecture is represented by a database of structural elements for abstracted analysis. We obtain excellent automatic tracing of PVD trees and uncover that dendritic junctions are unevenly distributed. Surprisingly, these junctions are three-way-symmetrical on average, while dendritic processes are arranged orthogonally. We quantify the effect of mutations in git-1, a regulator of dendritic spine formation, on PVD morphology and discover a localized reduction in junctions. Our findings shed new light on PVD architecture, demonstrating the effectiveness of our objective analyses of dendritic morphology and suggest molecular control mechanisms.Author SummaryNerve cells (neurons) collect input signals via branched cellular projections called dendrites. A major aspect of the study of neurons, dating back for over 100 years, involves the characterization of neuronal shapes and of their dendritic processes.Here, we present an algorithmic approach for detection and classification of the tree-like dendrites of the PVD neuron in C. elegans worms. A key feature of our approach is to represent dendritic trees by a sets of fundamental shape elements, such as junctions and linear sections. By analyzing this dataset, we discovered several novel structural features. We have found that the junctions connecting branched dendrites have a three-way-symmetry, although the dendrites are arranged in a crosshatch pattern; and that the distribution of junctions varies across distinct sub-classes of the PVD's dendritic tree. We further quantified subtle morphological effects due to mutations in git-1 gene, a known regulator of dendritic spines. Our findings suggest molecular mechanisms for dendritic shape regulation and may help direct new avenues of research.