Glial phagocytosis of apoptotic neurons is crucial for development and proper function of the central nervous system. Relying on transmembrane receptors located on their protrusions, phagocytic glia recognize and engulf apoptotic debris. Like vertebrate microglia, Drosophila phagocytic glial cells form an elaborate network in the developing brain to reach and remove apoptotic neurons. However, the mechanisms controlling creation of the branched morphology of these glial cells critical for their phagocytic ability remain unknown. Here, we demonstrate that during early embryogenesis, the Drosophila fibroblast growth factor receptor (FGFR) Heartless (Htl) and its ligand Pyramus are essential in glial cells for the formation of glial extensions, the presence of which strongly affects glial phagocytosis of apoptotic neurons during later stages of embryonic development. Reduction in Htl pathway activity results in shorter lengths and lower complexity of glial branches, thereby disrupting the glial network. Our work thus illuminates the important role Htl signaling plays in glial subcellular morphogenesis and in establishing glial phagocytic ability.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
- Cell Biology
- Cancer Research