Despite their predominance in the nervous system, the precise ways in which glial cells develop and contribute to overall neural function remain poorly defined in any organism. Investigations in simple model organisms have identified remarkable morphological, molecular, and functional similarities between invertebrate and vertebrate glial subtypes. Invertebrates like Drosophila and Caenorhabditis elegans offer an abundance of tools for in vivo genetic manipulation of single cells or whole populations of glia, ease of access to neural tissues throughout development, and the opportunity for forward genetic analysis of fundamental aspects of glial cell biology. These features suggest that invertebrate model systems have high potential for vastly improving the understanding of glial biology. This review highlights recent work in Drosophila and other invertebrates that reveal new insights into basic mechanisms involved in glial development.
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