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Int Rev Cell Mol Biol. 2010;283:93-128. doi: 10.1016/S1937-6448(10)83003-5.

Axonal ensheathment and intercellular barrier formation in Drosophila.

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Curriculum in Neurobiology, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA.


Glial cells are critical players in every major aspect of nervous system development, function, and disease. Other than their traditional supportive role, glial cells perform a variety of important functions such as myelination, synapse formation and plasticity, and establishment of blood-brain and blood-nerve barriers in the nervous system. Recent studies highlight the striking functional similarities between Drosophila and vertebrate glia. In both systems, glial cells play an essential role in neural ensheathment thereby isolating the nervous system and help to create a local ionic microenvironment for conduction of nerve impulses. Here, we review the anatomical aspects and the molecular players that underlie ensheathment during different stages of nervous system development in Drosophila and how these processes lead to the organization of neuroglial junctions. We also discuss some key aspects of the invertebrate axonal ensheathment and junctional organization with that of vertebrate myelination and axon-glial interactions. Finally, we highlight the importance of intercellular junctions in barrier formation in various cellular contexts in Drosophila. We speculate that unraveling the genetic and molecular mechanisms of ensheathment across species might provide key insights into human myelin-related disorders and help in designing therapeutic interventions.

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