Insect glia represents a conspicuous and diverse population of cells and plays a role in controlling neuronal progenitor proliferation, axonal growth, neuronal differentiation and maintenance, and neuronal function. Genetic studies in Drosophila have elucidated many aspects of glial structure, function, and development. Just as in vertebrates, it appears as if different classes of glial cells are specialized for different functions. On the basis of topology and cell shape, glial cells of the central nervous system fall into three classes (Fig. 1A-C): (i) surface glia that extend sheath-like processes to wrap around the entire brain; (ii) cortex glia (also called cell body-associated glia) that encapsulate neuronal somata and neuroblasts which form the outer layer (cortex) of the central nervous system; (iii) neuropile glia that are located at the interface between the cortex and the neuropile, the central domain of the nervous system formed by the highly branched neuronal processes and their synaptic contacts. Surface glia is further subdivided into an outer, perineurial layer, and an inner, subperineurial layer. Likewise, neuropile glia comprises a class of cells that remain at the surface of the neuropile (ensheathing glia), and a second class that forms profuse lamellar processes around nerve fibers within the neuropile (astrocyte-like or reticular glia). Glia also surrounds the peripheral nerves and sensory organs; here, one also recognizes perineurial and subperineurial glia, and a third type called "wrapping glia" that most likely corresponds to the ensheathing glia of the central nervous system. Much more experimental work is needed to determine how fundamental these differences between classes of glial cells are, or how and when during development they are specified. To aid in this work the following review will briefly summarize our knowledge of the classes of glial cells encountered in the Drosophila nervous system, and then survey their development from the embryo to adult.
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