Glia, or glial cells, are considered a vital component of the nervous system, serving as an electrical insulator and a protective barrier from the interstitial (extracellular) media. Certain glial cells (i.e., astrocytes, microglia, and oligodendrocytes) within the CNS have been shown to directly affect neural functions, but these properties are challenging to study due to the difficulty involved with selectively-activating specific glia. To overcome this hurdle, we selectively expressed light-sensitive ion channels (i.e., channel rhodopsin, ChR2-XXL) in glia of larvae and adult Drosophila melanogaster. Upon activation of ChR2, both adults and larvae showed a rapid contracture of body wall muscles with the animal remaining in contracture even after the light was turned off. During ChR2-XXL activation, electrophysiological recordings of evoked excitatory junction potentials within body wall muscles of the larvae confirmed a train of motor nerve activity. Additionally, when segmental nerves were transected from the CNS and exposed to light, there were no noted differences in quantal or evoked responses. This suggests that there is not enough expression of ChR2-XXL to influence the segmental axons to detect in our paradigm. Activation of the glia within the CNS is sufficient to excite the motor neurons.

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Published in Neuroglia, v. 2, issue 1.

© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

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Funding provided by University of Kentucky Neuroscience Research Priority Area to S.M. and Chellgren Endowed Funding to R.L.C. Stocks obtained from the Bloomington Drosophila Stock Center (NIH P40OD018537) were used in this study.

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The following are available online at https://www.mdpi.com/article/10.3390/neuroglia2010007/s1. The materials are also available for download as the additional file listed at the end of this record.

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