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Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Distinct types of glial cells populate the Drosophila antenna

Anindya Sen13, Chetak Shetty1, Dhanisha Jhaveri14 and Veronica Rodrigues12*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biological Sciences, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Homi Bhabha Rd., Mumbai 400005, India

2 National Centre for Biological Sciences, TIFR, GKVK PO, Bellary Rd., Bangalore 560065, India

3 Dept. of Physiology and Cellular Biophysics, Columbia University, New York. USA

4 Queensland Brain Institute, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia

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BMC Developmental Biology 2005, 5:25  doi:10.1186/1471-213X-5-25

Published: 11 November 2005



The development of nervous systems involves reciprocal interactions between neurons and glia. In the Drosophila olfactory system, peripheral glial cells arise from sensory lineages specified by the basic helix-loop-helix transcription factor, Atonal. These glia wrap around the developing olfactory axons early during development and pattern the three distinct fascicles as they exit the antenna. In the moth Manduca sexta, an additional set of central glia migrate to the base of the antennal nerve where axons sort to their glomerular targets. In this work, we have investigated whether similar types of cells exist in the Drosophila antenna.


We have used different P(Gal4) lines to drive Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP) in distinct populations of cells within the Drosophila antenna. Mz317::GFP, a marker for cell body and perineural glia, labels the majority of peripheral glia. An additional ~30 glial cells detected by GH146::GFP do not derive from any of the sensory lineages and appear to migrate into the antenna from the brain. Their appearance in the third antennal segment is regulated by normal function of the Epidermal Growth Factor receptor and small GTPases. We denote these distinct populations of cells as Mz317-glia and GH146-glia respectively. In the adult, processes of GH146-glial cells ensheath the olfactory receptor neurons directly, while those of the Mz317-glia form a peripheral layer. Ablation of GH146-glia does not result in any significant effects on the patterning of the olfactory receptor axons.


We have demonstrated the presence of at least two distinct populations of glial cells within the Drosophila antenna. GH146-glial cells originate in the brain and migrate to the antenna along the newly formed olfactory axons. The number of cells populating the third segment of the antenna is regulated by signaling through the Epidermal Growth Factor receptor. These glia share several features of the sorting zone cells described in Manduca.