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Curr Top Dev Biol. 2005;69:39-66.

Glia-neuron interactions in nervous system function and development.

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The Rockefeller University, New York, New York 10021, USA.


Nervous systems are generally composed of two cell types-neurons and glia. Early studies of neurons revealed that these cells can conduct electrical currents, immediately implying that they have roles in the relay of information throughout the nervous system. Roles for glia have, until recently, remained obscure. The importance of glia in regulating neuronal survival had been long recognized. However, this trophic support function has hampered attempts to address additional, more active functions of these cells in the nervous system. In this chapter, recent efforts to reveal some of these additional functions are described. Evidence supporting a role for glia in synaptic development and activity is presented, as well as experiments suggesting glial guidance of neuronal migration and process outgrowth. Roles for glia in influencing the electrical activity of neurons are also discussed. Finally, an exciting system is described for studying glial cells in the nematode C. elegans, in which recent studies suggest that glia are not required for neuronal viability.

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