Cellular specialization is particularly prominent in mammalian nervous systems, which are composed of millions to billions of neurons that appear in thousands of different 'flavors' and contribute to a variety of functions. Even in a single brain region, individual neurons differ greatly in their morphology, connectivity and electrophysiological properties. Systematic classification of all mammalian neurons is a key goal towards deconstructing the nervous system into its basic components. With the recent advances in single-cell gene expression profiling technologies, it is now possible to undertake the enormous task of disentangling neuronal heterogeneity. High-throughput single-cell RNA sequencing and multiplexed quantitative RT-PCR have become more accessible, and these technologies enable systematic categorization of individual neurons into groups with similar molecular properties. Here we provide a conceptual and practical guide to classification of neural cell types using single-cell gene expression profiling technologies.
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