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Papers of the Week

Papers: 25 May 2024 - 31 May 2024

2024 Jun 04

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A




Editor's Pick

Deep sequencing of Phox2a nuclei reveals five classes of anterolateral system neurons.


Bell AM, Utting C, Dickie AC, Kucharczyk MW, Quillet R, Gutierrez-Mecinas M, Razlan ANB, Cooper AH, Lan Y, Hachisuka J, Weir GA, Bannister K, Watanabe M, Kania A, Hoon MA, Macaulay IC, Denk F, Todd AJ


The anterolateral system (ALS) is a major ascending pathway from the spinal cord that projects to multiple brain areas and underlies the perception of pain, itch, and skin temperature. Despite its importance, our understanding of this system has been hampered by the considerable functional and molecular diversity of its constituent cells. Here, we use fluorescence-activated cell sorting to isolate ALS neurons belonging to the Phox2a-lineage for single-nucleus RNA sequencing. We reveal five distinct clusters of ALS neurons (ALS1-5) and document their laminar distribution in the spinal cord using in situ hybridization. We identify three clusters of neurons located predominantly in laminae I-III of the dorsal horn (ALS1-3) and two clusters with cell bodies located in deeper laminae (ALS4 and ALS5). Our findings reveal the transcriptional logic that underlies ALS neuronal diversity in the adult mouse and uncover the molecular identity of two previously identified classes of projection neurons. We also show that these molecular signatures can be used to target groups of ALS neurons using retrograde viral tracing. Overall, our findings provide a valuable resource for studying somatosensory biology and targeting subclasses of ALS neurons.