The tadpole-type larva of Ciona has emerged as an intriguing model system for the study of neurodevelopment. The Ciona intestinalis connectome has been recently mapped, revealing the smallest central nervous system (CNS) known in any chordate, with only 177 neurons. This minimal CNS is highly reminiscent of larger CNS of vertebrates, sharing many conserved developmental processes, anatomical compartments, neuron subtypes, and even specific neural circuits. Thus, the Ciona tadpole offers a unique opportunity to understand the development and wiring of a chordate CNS at single-cell resolution. Here we report the use of single-cell RNAseq to profile the transcriptomes of single cells isolated by fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) from the whole brain of Ciona robusta (formerly intestinalis Type A) larvae. We have also compared these profiles to bulk RNAseq data from specific subsets of brain cells isolated by FACS using cell type-specific reporter plasmid expression. Taken together, these datasets have begun to reveal the compartment- and cell-specific gene expression patterns that define the organization of the Ciona larval brain.
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