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Astrocyte-like glia during visual circuit assembly in Drosophila

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Astrocytes are an essential part of brain architecture. This heterogeneous cell population controls many aspects of nervous system development, function and homeostasis. To fulfill these roles, astrocytes have to extend elaborate processes into the vicinity of neurons and their synaptic contacts. However, how astrocyte acquire their complex shapes at specific positions in an assembling neural circuit remains poorly understood.

To address this issue, we established an elongated astrocyte-like glial cell type, the medulla neuropil glia, in the Drosophila visual system as a model to study the genetic control of astrocyte development. We reasoned that astrocytes, similar to neurons, acquire their characteristic shapes by cell-cell interactions that are mediated by secreted and cell surface molecules. I will present our recent findings about the identification of a novel factor, which plays a central role in astrocyte branch morphogenesis and positioning in the optic lobe.

This talk is part of the Foster Talks series.

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