Using spatial transcriptomics to identify novel glia-neuron interactions in the developing nervous system

Vilaiwan Fernandes (primary)
Cell and Developmental Biology
University College London
Steve Wilson (secondary)
Cell and Developmental Biology
University College London


Glia have only recently been recognized as regulators of nervous system development. Here, we aim to systematically determine how glia communicate with developing neurons from neurogenesis through to synaptogenesis. Conservation of biological processes enables us to investigate this question in the fruit fly, where we have unparalleled knowledge of neuronal diversity and circuit formation. We will identify signalling ligand-receptor pairs that are expressed across neighbouring glia and neurons systematically by combining bioinformatic analyses of developmental single cell transcriptomics with multiplexed fluorescent in situ hybridisation to provide spatial context. We will then ask how perturbing these glial signals affects neuronal development.


Özel MN, Simon F, Jafari S, Holguera I, Chen YC, Benhra N, El-Danaf RN, Kapuralin K, Malin JA, Konstantinides N, Desplan C. Neuronal diversity and convergence in a visual system developmental atlas. 2020. Nature 589[7840]:88-95. doi: 10.1038/s41586-020-2879-3.

Kurmangaliyev YZ, Yoo J, Valdes-Aleman J, Sanfilippo P, Zipursky SL. Transcriptional Programs of Circuit Assembly in the Drosophila Visual System. 2020. Neuron 108[6]:1045-1057.e6. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2020.10.006.

Fernandes, V.M., Chen, Z., Rossi, A.M., Zipfel, J. and Desplan, C. Glia relay differentiation cues to coordinate neuronal development in Drosophila. 2017. Science 357[6354]:886-891. doi: 10.1126/science.aan3174.

Thompson CL, et al., A High-Resolution Spatiotemporal Atlas of Gene Expression of the Developing Mouse Brain, 2014, Neuron 83[2]: 309-323.

Genes, development and STEM* approaches to biology
Area of Biology
Techniques & Approaches
BioinformaticsGeneticsImage ProcessingMicroscopy / ElectrophysiologyMolecular Biology