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J Neurosci. 1988 Jan;8(1):353-67.

Radiation-induced reduction of the glial population during development disrupts the formation of olfactory glomeruli in an insect.

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  • 1Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, Georgetown University School of Medicine, Washington, D.C. 20007.


Interactions between neurons and between neurons and glial cells have been shown by a number of investigators to be critical for normal development of the nervous system. In the olfactory system of Manduca sexta, sensory axons have been shown to induce the formation of synaptic glomeruli in the antennal lobe of the brain (Hildebrand et al., 1979). Oland and Tolbert (1987) found that the growth of sensory axons into the developing antennal lobe causes changes in glial shape and disposition that presage the establishment of glomeruli, each surrounded by a glial envelope. Several lines of evidence lead us to hypothesize that the glial cells of the lobe may be acting as intermediaries in developmental interactions between sensory axons and neurons of the antennal lobe. In the present study, we have tested this hypothesis by using gamma-radiation to reduce the number of glial cells at a time when neurons of the antennal system are postmitotic but glomeruli have not yet developed. When glial numbers are severely reduced, the neuropil of the resulting lobe lacks glomeruli. Despite the presence of afferent axons, the irradiated lobe has many of the features of a lobe that developed in the absence of afferent axons. Our findings indicate that the glial cells must play a necessary role in the inductive influence of the afferent axons.

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