A Drosophila glial cell atlas reveals a mismatch between transcriptional and morphological diversity

Inês Lago-Baldaia, Maia Cooper, Austin Seroka, Chintan Trivedi, Gareth T. Powell, Stephen W. Wilson, Sarah D. Ackerman, Vilaiwan M. Fernandes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Morphology is a defining feature of neuronal identity. Like neurons, glia display diverse morphologies, both across and within glial classes, but are also known to be morphologically plastic. Here, we explored the relationship between glial morphology and transcriptional signature using the Drosophila central nervous system (CNS), where glia are categorised into 5 main classes (outer and inner surface glia, cortex glia, ensheathing glia, and astrocytes), which show within-class morphological diversity. We analysed and validated single-cell RNA sequencing data of Drosophila glia in 2 well-characterised tissues from distinct developmental stages, containing distinct circuit types: the embryonic ventral nerve cord (VNC) (motor) and the adult optic lobes (sensory). Our analysis identified a new morphologically and transcriptionally distinct surface glial population in the VNC. However, many glial morphological categories could not be distinguished transcriptionally, and indeed, embryonic and adult astrocytes were transcriptionally analogous despite differences in developmental stage and circuit type. While we did detect extensive within-class transcriptomic diversity for optic lobe glia, this could be explained entirely by glial residence in the most superficial neuropil (lamina) and an associated enrichment for immune-related gene expression. In summary, we generated a single-cell transcriptomic atlas of glia in Drosophila, and our extensive in vivo validation revealed that glia exhibit more diversity at the morphological level than was detectable at the transcriptional level. This atlas will serve as a resource for the community to probe glial diversity and function.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere3002328
JournalPLoS biology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2023


Dive into the research topics of 'A Drosophila glial cell atlas reveals a mismatch between transcriptional and morphological diversity'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this