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J Neurosci Res. 2008 May 1;86(6):1189-98.

Glial ensheathment of peripheral axons in Drosophila.

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Department of Cell and Molecular Physiology, Neurodevelopmental Disorders Research Center, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599-7545, USA.


The ensheathment of neurons and their axons creates an ion-sensitive microenvironment that allows rapid conduction of nerve impulses. One of the fundamental questions about axonal ensheathment is how insulating glial cells wrap around axons. The mechanisms that underlie insulation of axons in invertebrates and vertebrates are not fully understood. In the present article we address cellular aspects of axonal ensheathment in Drosophila by taking advantage of glial mutants that illustrate a range of phenotypic defects including ensheathment of axons. From the findings of these mutant studies, we summarize that loss of glial cells, defects in glial membrane wrapping, failure of glial migration, and loss of specialized ladderlike septate junctions between ensheathing glial membranes result in axon-glial functional defects. These studies provide a broad perspective on glial ensheathment of axons in Drosophila and key insights into the anatomical and cellular aspects of axonal insulation. Given the powerful genetic approaches available in Drosophila, the axonal ensheathment process can be dissected in great detail to reveal the fundamental principles of ensheathment. These observations will be relevant to understanding the very similar processes in vertebrates, where defects in glial cell functions lead to devastating neurological diseases.

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