Robles, E. (2017) The power of projectomes: genetic mosaic labeling in the larval zebrafish brain reveals organizing principles of sensory circuits. Journal of neurogenetics. 31(3):61-69.
In no vertebrate species do we possess an accurate, comprehensive tally of neuron types in the brain. This is in no small part due to the vast diversity of neuronal types that comprise complex vertebrate nervous systems. A fundamental goal of neuroscience is to construct comprehensive catalogs of cell types defined by structure, connectivity, and physiological response properties. This type of information will be invaluable for generating models of how assemblies of neurons encode and distribute sensory information and correspondingly alter behavior. This review summarizes recent efforts in the larval zebrafish to construct sensory projectomes, comprehensive analyses of axonal morphologies in sensory axon tracts. Focusing on the olfactory and optic tract, these studies revealed principles of sensory information processing in the olfactory and visual systems that could not have been directly quantified by other methods. In essence, these studies reconstructed the optic and olfactory tract in a virtual manner, providing insights into patterns of neuronal growth that underlie the formation of sensory axon tracts. Quantitative analysis of neuronal diversity revealed organizing principles that determine information flow through sensory systems in the zebrafish that are likely to be conserved across vertebrate species. The generation of comprehensive cell type classifications based on structural, physiological, and molecular features will lead to testable hypotheses on the functional role of individual sensory neuron subtypes in controlling specific sensory-evoked behaviors.