Tracheal development in the Drosophila brain is constrained by glial cells

Dev Biol. 2007 Feb 1;302(1):169-80. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2006.09.022. Epub 2006 Sep 16.


The Drosophila brain is tracheated by the cerebral trachea, a branch of the first segmental trachea of the embryo. During larval stages the cerebral trachea splits into several main (primary) branches that grow around the neuropile, forming a perineuropilar tracheal plexus (PNP) at the neuropile surface. Five primary tracheal branches whose spatial relationship to brain compartments is relatively invariant can be distinguished, although the exact trajectories and branching pattern of the brain tracheae are surprisingly variable. Immunohistochemical and electron microscopic studies demonstrate that all brain tracheae grow in direct contact with the glial cell processes that surround the neuropile. To investigate the effect of glia on tracheal development, embryos and larvae lacking glial cells as a result of a genetic mutation or a directed ablation were analyzed. In these animals, the tracheal branching pattern was highly abnormal. In particular, the number of secondary branches entering the central neuropile was increased. Wild-type larvae possess only two central tracheae, typically associated with the mushroom body and the antennocerebral tract. In larvae lacking glial cells, six to ten tracheal branches penetrate the neuropile in a variable pattern. This finding indicates that glia-derived signals constrained tracheal growth in the Drosophila brain and restrict the number of branches entering the neuropile.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / blood supply
  • Brain / cytology
  • Brain / growth & development
  • Drosophila / cytology
  • Drosophila / growth & development*
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional
  • Larva / cytology
  • Larva / growth & development
  • Models, Neurological
  • Neuroglia / physiology*
  • Neuropil / cytology