Université de Strasbourg

Of glia and microglia

Of glia and microglia, from flies to mice

USIAS Fellow: Angela Giangrande
Post-doc: Yoshihiro Yuasa

Immune, degenerative and inflammatory diseases of the nervous system represent a heavy burden for our societies, and understanding the pathways controlling the formation and the integrity of the nervous system remains one of the most exciting issues in the area of neurobiology.
Recent studies indicate that microglia, cells of immune origin, play a key role in those diseases. These cells constitute the resident macrophages of the vertebrate nervous system and are thus crucial for the first response to damage, however, the molecular mechanisms controlling their development and activity are still poorly understood.
Drosophila provides a powerful genetic model to explore conserved pathways and the functional equivalent of microglia are the glial cells. In flies, this cell population as well as the macrophages circulating outside the nervous system, depends on a single gene called Glide/Gcm. When this gene is absent, gliogenesis and hematopoiesis are defective.
This gene is evolutionarily conserved and our data suggest that the ortholog genes have a similar conserved key role in the vertebrate immune system, including humans.
We are now testing the hypothesis that this gene is necessary for the development/function of microglia in mice, and that its lack has an impact on the immune response. In the long run, a better understanding of the function of Glide/Gcm genes may help identifying novel therapeutical targets for severe human pathologies, such as multiple sclerosis, neurodegeneration and inflammatory diseases.

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