CNS glia have integral roles in directing axon migration of both vertebrates and insects. In contrast, very little is known about the roles of PNS glia in axonal pathfinding. In vertebrates and Drosophila, anatomical evidence shows that peripheral glia prefigure the transition zones through which axons migrate into and out of the CNS. Therefore, peripheral glia could guide axons at the transition zone. We used the Drosophila model system to test this hypothesis by ablating peripheral glia early in embryonic neurodevelopment via targeted overexpression of cell death genes grim and ced-3. The effects of peripheral glial loss on sensory and motor neuron development were analyzed. Motor axons initially exit the CNS in abnormal patterns in the absence of peripheral glia. However, they must use other cues within the periphery to find their correct target muscles since early pathfinding errors are largely overcome. When peripheral glia are lost, sensory axons show disrupted migration as they travel centrally. This is not a result of motor neuron defects, as determined by motor/sensory double-labeling experiments. We conclude that peripheral glia prefigure the CNS/PNS transition zone and guide axons as they traverse this region.
Copyright 2001 Academic Press.