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Development. 2008 Jul;135(13):2263-75. doi: 10.1242/dev.019547. Epub 2008 May 28.

mls-2 and vab-3 Control glia development, hlh-17/Olig expression and glia-dependent neurite extension in C. elegans.

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The Rockefeller University, Laboratory of Developmental Genetics, 1230 York Avenue, New York, NY 10065, USA.


Glia are essential components of nervous systems. However, genetic programs promoting glia development and regulating glia-neuron interactions have not been extensively explored. Here we describe transcriptional programs required for development and function of the C. elegans cephalic sheath (CEPsh) glia. We demonstrate ventral- and dorsal-restricted roles for the mls-2/Nkx/Hmx and vab-3/Pax6/Pax7 genes, respectively, in CEPsh glia differentiation and expression of the genes hlh-17/Olig and ptr-10/Patched-related. Using mls-2 and vab-3 mutants, as well as CEPsh glia-ablated animals, we show that CEPsh glia are important for sensory dendrite extension, axon guidance/branching within the nerve ring, and nerve ring assembly. We demonstrate that UNC-6/Netrin, expressed in ventral CEPsh glia, mediates glia-dependent axon guidance. Our results suggest possible similarities between CEPsh glia development and oligodendrocyte development in vertebrates, and demonstrate that C. elegans provides a unique environment for studying glial functions in vivo.

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