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WIREs Dev Biol
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Differentiation of Drosophila glial cells

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Glial cells are important constituents of the nervous system and a hallmark of these cells are their pronounced migratory abilities. In Drosophila, glial lineages have been well described and some of the molecular mechanisms necessary to guide migrating glial cells to their final target sites have been identified. With the onset of migration, glial cells are already specified into one of five main glial cell types. The perineurial and subperineurial glial cells are eventually located at the outer surface of the Drosophila nervous system and constitute the blood–brain barrier. The cortex glial cells ensheath all neuroblasts and their progeny and reside within the central nervous system. Astrocyte‐like cells invade the neuropil to control synaptic function and ensheathing glial cells encase the entire neuropil. Within the peripheral nervous system, wrapping glial cells ensheath individual axons or axon fascicles. Here, we summarize the current knowledge on how differentiation of glial cells into the specific subtypes is orchestrated. Furthermore, we discuss sequencing data that will facilitate further analyses of glial differentiation in the fly nervous system. WIREs Dev Biol 2015, 4:623–636. doi: 10.1002/wdev.198 This article is categorized under: Gene Expression and Transcriptional Hierarchies > Cellular Differentiation Invertebrate Organogenesis > Flies Nervous System Development > Flies
Glial cells in the Drosophila nervous system. (a) Schematic view of a cross section through a ventral nerve cord. All glial cells discussed in this review are depicted. The red label in the SPG layer indicates septate junctions. (b) Schematic view of a third instar larval eye imaginal disc. Anterior is to the top. The morphogenetic furrow (mf) is indicated. Differentiating photoreceptor neurons posterior to the mf are not indicated. Different glial cell types are depicted. The perineurial glial cells (PG) cover the entire eye field. Only some are shown for clarity. The PG reside on one of two large subperineurial glial cells (SPG). Only one SPG is depicted. About 50 wrapping glial cells (WG) are found. They ensheath bundles of photoreceptor axons on their way to the visual centers. (c) Schematic view of a cross section through an eye imaginal disc. Anterior is to the right. The Bolwig nerve attaches the eye disc to the brain. Photoreceptor axons are in orange. The different glial cells are labeled as in (a) and (b).
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Comparison of gene expression data. A total of 14 glially expressed genes were found by Altenhein et al., Freeman et al., and DeSalvo et al. Eight genes were also found by Schauer et al. (blue area) and four genes were also found by Miller et al (green area). The genes CG6218 and nrv2 were detected in all five studies.
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Drosophila systems used to analyze glial cell migration. (a) In the segmental nerve motoneurons (yellow) project their axon toward the periphery. Concomitantly, sensory neurons (orange) project their axons toward the CNS. Most peripheral glial cells are born close to the CNS/PNS boundary and migrate along motoaxons into the periphery. (b) Forming Drosophila wing. Glial cells born in the periphery migrate together with the sensory axons toward the CNS. (c) In the developing eye imaginal disc, glial cells initially reside in the optic stalk connecting the eye imaginal disc with the brain. Only sensory neurons are found in the optic stalk. Glial cells move outward onto the eye imaginal disc. The zone of neurogenesis in the antennal disc is indicated by red shading. Anterior is to the left. (d) Schematic view depicting the position of the eye and antennal imaginal disc parts relative to the brain lobes. Anterior is to the left, dorsal is up.
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Summary of glial cell types. The typical morphology of the different glial cells is depicted. A short summary of the glial characteristics as well as the most specific Gal4 line used to target this particular cell type is indicated.
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