Characterization of Glial Cell Development in the Drosophila Central Nervous System

Glia represent a major cellular constituent of invertebrate and vertebrate nervous systems. Although glial cells were originally thought to be simple "space filling" support cells for the more studied neurons, accumulating evidence suggests an active role for glia in nearly every aspect of proper nervous system development, function, and maintenance. However, many fundamental aspects of glial cell biology remain poorly understood. Recently, several molecularly and morphologically distinct glial subtypes have been identified in Drosophila. These heterogeneous glial subtypes appear to fulfill evolutionarily conserved functions akin to vertebrate glial subtypes. Thus, Drosophila, being amenable to powerful genetic and molecular manipulation, is an excellent model system to gain fundamental insight into glial cell biology.

We aim to describe the basic development of glial cell subtypes in the Drosophila brain. A thorough description of glial cell subtype proliferation, migration, and morphology will lay the foundation for a more systematic characterization of mechanisms governing glial cell development and function in the future. We are concurrently conducting an RNAi-based reverse genetics screen using glia-specific GAL4 drivers to identify genes which regulate these aspects of glial cell biology.

Group Member: Jaison Omoto