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Development. 2010 Apr;137(8):1251-62. doi: 10.1242/dev.042853. Epub 2010 Mar 10.

Netrins guide migration of distinct glial cells in the Drosophila embryo.

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  • 1Institute of Genetics, University of Mainz, Saarstrasse 21, Mainz, Germany.


Development of the nervous system and establishment of complex neuronal networks require the concerted activity of different signalling events and guidance cues, which include Netrins and their receptors. In Drosophila, two Netrins are expressed during embryogenesis by cells of the ventral midline and serve as attractant or repellent cues for navigating axons. We asked whether glial cells, which are also motile, are guided by similar cues to axons, and analysed the influence of Netrins and their receptors on glial cell migration during embryonic development. We show that in Netrin mutants, two distinct populations of glial cells are affected: longitudinal glia (LG) fail to migrate medially in the early stages of neurogenesis, whereas distinct embryonic peripheral glia (ePG) do not properly migrate laterally into the periphery. We further show that early Netrin-dependent guidance of LG requires expression of the receptor Frazzled (Fra) already in the precursor cell. At these early stages, Netrins are not yet expressed by cells of the ventral midline and we provide evidence for a novel Netrin source within the neurogenic region that includes neuroblasts. Later in development, most ePG transiently express uncoordinated 5 (unc5) during their migratory phase. In unc5 mutants, however, two of these cells in particular exhibit defective migration and stall in, or close to, the central nervous system. Both phenotypes are reversible in cell-specific rescue experiments, indicating that Netrin-mediated signalling via Fra (in LG) or Unc5 (in ePG) is a cell-autonomous effect.

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