Publication Date


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Academic Program



Department of Neurobiology; Hong-Sheng Li Lab

First Thesis Advisor

Hong-Sheng Li


Drosophila, intellectual disability, ACSL4


Dissertations, UMMS; Coenzyme A Ligases; Developmental Disabilities; Drosophila; Intellectual Disability; Neuroglia; Neurons


Recent developments in neurobiology make it clear that glia play fundamental and active roles, in the adult and in development. Many hereditary cognitive disorders have been linked to developmental defects, and in at least two cases, Rett Syndrome and Fragile X Mental Retardation, glia are important in pathogenesis. However, most studies of developmental disorders, in particular intellectual disability, focus on neuronal defects. An example is intellectual disability caused by mutations in ACSL4, a metabolic enzyme that conjugates long-chain fatty acids to Coenzyme A (CoA). Depleting ACSL4 in neurons is associated with defects in dendritic spines, a finding replicated in patient tissue, but the etiology of this disorder remains unclear. In a genetic screen to discover genes necessary for visual function, I identified the Drosophila homolog of ACSL4, Acsl, as a gene important for the magnitude of neuronal transmission, and found that it is required in glia. I determined that Acsl is required in a specific subtype of glia in the Drosophila optic lobe, and that depletion of Acsl from this population causes morphological defects. I demonstrated that Acsl is required in development, and that the phenotype can be rescued by human ACSL4. Finally, I discovered that ACSL4 is expressed in astrocytes in the mouse hippocampus. This study is highly significant for understanding glial biology and neurodevelopment. It provides information on the role of glia in development, substantiates a novel role for Acsl in glia, and advances our understanding of the potential role that glia play in the pathogenesis of intellectual disability.



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