Subtypes of glial cells in the Drosophila embryonic ventral nerve cord as related to lineage and gene expression

Mech Dev. May-Jun 2008;125(5-6):542-57. doi: 10.1016/j.mod.2007.12.004. Epub 2008 Jan 8.


In the Drosophila embryonic CNS several subtypes of glial cells develop, which arrange themselves at characteristic positions and presumably fulfil specific functions. The mechanisms leading to the specification and differentiation of glial subtypes are largely unknown. By DiI labelling in glia-specific Gal4 lines we have clarified the lineages of the lateral glia in the embryonic ventral nerve cord and linked each glial cell to a specific stem cell. For the lineage of the longitudinal glioblast we show that it consists of 9 cells, which acquire at least four different identities. A large collection of molecular markers (many of them representing transcription factors and potential Gcm target genes) reveals that individual glial cells express specific combinations of markers. However, cluster analysis uncovers similar combinatorial codes for cells within, and significant differences between the categories of surface-associated, cortex-associated, and longitudinal glia. Glial cells derived from the same stem cell may be homogeneous (though not identical; stem cells NB1-1, NB5-6, NB6-4, LGB) or heterogeneous (NB7-4, NB1-3) with regard to gene expression. In addition to providing a powerful tool to analyse the fate of individual glial cells in different genetic backgrounds, each of these marker genes represents a candidate factor involved in glial specification or differentiation. We demonstrate this by the analysis of a castor loss of function mutation, which affects the number and migration of specific glial cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Lineage
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Cell Movement
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Drosophila melanogaster / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental*
  • Genetic Markers
  • Genetic Techniques
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Nervous System / embryology
  • Neuroglia / cytology*
  • Neuroglia / metabolism
  • Peripheral Nervous System / embryology


  • Genetic Markers