Spatial constraints dictate glial territories at murine neuromuscular junctions

Monika S. Brill, Jeff W. Lichtman, Wesley Thompson, Yi Zuo, Thomas Misgeld

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Schwann cells (SC s), the glial cells of the peripheral nervous system, cover synaptic terminals, allowing them to monitor and modulate neurotransmission. Disruption of glial coverage leads to axon degeneration and synapse loss. The cellular mechanisms that establish and maintain this coverage remain largely unknown. To address this, we labeled single SC s and performed time-lapse imaging experiments. Adult terminal SC s are arranged in static tile patterns, whereas young SC s dynamically intermingle. The mechanism of developmental glial segregation appears to be spatial competition, in which glial-glial and axonal-glial contacts constrain the territory of single SC s, as shown by four types of experiments: (1) laser ablation of single SC s, which led to immediate territory expansion of neighboring SC s; (2) axon removal by transection, resulting in adult SC s intermingling dynamically; (3) axotomy in mutant mice with blocked axon fragmentation in which intermingling was delayed; and (4) activity blockade, which had no immediate effects. In summary, we conclude that glial cells partition synapses by competing for perisynaptic space.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)293-305
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Cell Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 17 Oct 2011


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