GSBS Dissertations and Theses

Publication Date


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Academic Program



Department of Neurobiology; Freeman Lab

First Thesis Advisor

Marc R. Freeman, Ph.D.


Neuromuscular Junction, Drosophila melanogaster, Synapses, Neuroglia


Emerging evidence in both vertebrates and invertebrates is redefining glia as active and mobile players in synapse formation, maturation and function. However, the molecular mechanisms through which neurons and glia interact with each other to regulate these processes is not well known. My thesis work begins to understand how glia use secreted factors to modulate synaptic function. We use Drosophila melanogaster, a simple and genetically tractable model system, to understand the molecular mechanisms by which glia communicate with neurons at glutamatergic neuromuscular junctions (NMJs). We previously showed that a specific subtype of glia, subperineurial peripheral glia cells (SPGs), establish dynamic transient interactions with synaptic boutons of the NMJ and is required for synaptic growth. I identified a number of potential functional targets of the glial transcription factor, reverse polarity (repo) using ChIP-chip. I found that one novel target of Repo, Wg, is expressed in SPGs and is regulated by repo in vivo. Wnt/Wg signaling plays a pivotal role during synapse development and plasticity, including the coordinated development of the molecular architecture of the synapse. While previous studies demonstrated that Wg is secreted by motor neurons, herein I provide evidence that a significant amount of Wg at the NMJ is additionally provided by glia. I found that Wg derived from SPGs is required for proper GluR distribution and electrophysiological responses at the NMJ. In summary, my results show that Wg expression is regulated by Repo in SPGs and that glial-derived Wg, together with motor neuron-derived Wg, orchestrate different aspects of synapse development. My thesis work identifies synapse stabilization and/or assembly as a new role for SPGs and demonstrates that glial secreted factors such as Wg regulate synaptic function at the Drosophila NMJ.



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