The astrocyte network in the ventral nerve cord neuropil of the Drosophila third-instar larva

Ernesto Hernandez, Sarah E. MacNamee, Leah R. Kaplan, Kim Lance, Hector D. Garcia-Verdugo, Dara S. Farhadi, Christine Deer, Si W. Lee, Lynne A. Oland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Understanding neuronal function at the local and circuit level requires understanding astrocyte function. We have provided a detailed analysis of astrocyte morphology and territory in the Drosophila third-instar ventral nerve cord where there already exists considerable understanding of the neuronal network. Astrocyte shape varies more than previously reported; many have bilaterally symmetrical partners, many have a high percentage of their arborization in adjacent segments, and many have branches that follow structural features. Taken together, our data are consistent with, but not fully explained by, a model of a developmental growth process dominated by competitive or repulsive interactions between astrocytes. Our data suggest that the model should also include cell-autonomous aspects, as well as the use of structural features for growth. Variation in location of arborization territory for identified astrocytes was great enough that a standardized scheme of neuropil division among the six astrocytes that populate each hemi-segment is not possible at the third instar. The arborizations of the astrocytes can extend across neuronal functional domains. The ventral astrocyte in particular, whose territory can extend well into the proprioceptive region of the neuropil, has no obvious branching pattern that correlates with domains of particular sensory modalities, suggesting that the astrocyte would respond to neuronal activity in any of the sensory modalities, perhaps integrating across them. This study sets the stage for future studies that will generate a robust, functionally oriented connectome that includes both partners in neuronal circuits—the neurons and the glial cells, providing the foundation necessary for studies to elucidate neuron–glia interactions in this neuropil.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1683-1703
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Jul 1 2020


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  • glial cells
  • neuron–glia interaction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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