Perturbed glial scaffold formation precedes axon tract malformation inDrosophila mutants
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The longitudinal glia (LG), progeny of a single glioblast, form a scaffold that presages the formation of longitudinal tracts in the ventral nerve cord (VNC) of the Drosophila embryo. The LG are used as a substrate during the extension of the first axons of the longitudinal tract. I have examined the differentiation of the LG in six mutations in which the longitudinal tracts were absent, displaced, or interrupted to determine whether the axon tract malformations may be attributable to disruptions in the LG scaffold. Embryos mutant for the gene prospero had no longitudinal tracts, and glial differentiation remained arrested at a preaxonogenic state. Two mutants of the Polycomb group also lacked longitudinal tracts; here the glia failed to form an oriented scaffold, but cytological differentiation of the LG was unperturbed. The longitudinal tracts in embryos mutant for slit fused at the VNC midline and scaffold formation was normal, except that it was medially displaced. Longitudinal tracts had intersegmental interruptions in embryos mutant for hindsight and midline. In hindsight, there were intersegmental gaps in the glial scaffold. In midline, the glial scaffold retracted after initial extension. LG morphogenesis during axonogenesis was abnormal in midline. Commitment to glial identity and glial differentiation also occurred before scaffold formation. In all mutants examined, the early distribution of the glycoprotein neuroglian was perturbed. This was indicative of early alterations in VNC pattern present before LG scaffold formation began. Therefore, some changes in scaffold formation may have reflected changes in the placement and differentiation of other cells of the VNC. In all mutants, alterations in scaffold formation preceded longitudinal axon tract formation.
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