• Morphological examination of the relationship between astrocyte-like glia and neuronal synapses in Drosophila

      Liu, Kendra; MacNamee, Sarah; Gerhard, Stephen; Fetter, Richard; Cardona, Albert; Tolbert, Leslie; Oland, Lynne; University of Arizona Department of Neuroscience; Undergraduate Program in Neuroscience and Cognitive Science; HHMI Janelia Research Campus; et al. (2016-02-24)
      The nervous system is composed of two types of cells: neurons and glia. In neuronal circuits, neurons communicate through synapses and glia play a crucial modulatory role. To modulate chemical reuptake, glia send processes close to synapses and many glia directly appose or ensheathe a synapse. This structural motif is one of the elements often included in describing a vertebrate tripartite synapse, which includes a bidirectional functional neuron-glia relationship. The exact nature of this neuron-glia communication is not well understood. In the invertebrate fruit fly, we have also found that particular neurons and glia also have a bidirectional functional relationship. This allows us to ask new questions about glial morphology. Throughout multiple images, I identified particular neuronal synapses and surrounding glia. After creating a 3D reconstruction, I measured the distance between a particular neuronal synapse and its closest glial process. Interestingly, the neuronal synapses were not directly apposed or ensheathed by glia, and the distance to the closest glial process varied one-hundred-fold. With variable distance, functional communication is consistently present. These findings provide important insight into invertebrate neuron-glia communication, and offer new avenues to investigate the structural neuron-glia relationships that are required for reciprocal signaling between the two cell classes.