The development of sex-specific neuronal features

The Oren-Suissa lab investigates how sexually dimorphic patterns in the brain emerge, from synapse formation to animal behavior. One of our goals is to elucidate how genetic sex modulates circuit dynamics. The underlying mechanisms can only be currently resolved in C. elegans, where the connectome of the nervous system for both sexes has been mapped. Using technologies such as optogenetics, calcium imaging, trans-synaptic labeling and single-cell transcriptome analysis we found a significant difference in the way the two sexes respond to nociceptive stimuli. Detailed circuit analysis reveals that the neuronal dynamics and connectivity of sex-shared neurons are shaped by their sexual identity to define the activity of circuits and ultimately, of behavior.

The Weizmann Institute of Science (WIS) is one of the world’s leading multidisciplinary research institutions. The Feinberg Graduate School, the Institute’s university arm, trains research students pursuing graduate degrees. The Department of Neurobiology supports multi-disciplinary cutting-edge methodologies, ranging from molecular biology and genetics, in vitro and in vivo electrophysiology, functional imaging and psychophysics, to computational modeling and theory. State-of-the-art microcopy, cell sorting and deep-sequencing facilities are also available at the Faculty of Biology.

  Learn more on our team's website here.

  Contact Meital Oren-Suissa at

NERVSPAN project

We hypothesize that sex-specific differential gene expression, as determined by the genetic sex, dictates the alternative synaptic choices made by dimorphic neurons and ultimately leads to dimorphic circuits and behaviors. Virtually no information exists regarding the modularity of gene expression during early development in a dimorphic context.


In this project you will :
  • identify genetic expression pattern changes that occur during development and sexual maturation in the two sexes.
  • identify the developmental time windows in which dimorphic gene expression changes occur.
  • unravel the role specific transcription factors play to define the sex specific properties of the nervous system during development.
  • define the impact of candidate genes on behavior using highly sensitive behavioral readouts.