Phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase and Akt nonautonomously promote perineurial glial growth in drosophila peripheral nerves

William Lavery, Veronica Hall, James C. Yager, Alex Rottgers, Michelle C. Wells, Michael Stern

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Drosophila peripheral nerves, structured similarly to their mammalian counterparts, comprise a layer of motor and sensory axons wrapped by an inner peripheral glia (analogous to the mammalian Schwann cell) and an outer perineurial glia (analogous to the mammalian perineurium). Growth and proliferation within mammalian peripheral nerves are increased by Ras pathway activation: loss-of-function mutations in Nf1, which encodes the Ras inhibitor neurofibromin, cause the human genetic disorder neurofibromatosis, which is characterized by formation of neurofibromas (tumors of peripheral nerves). However, the signaling pathways that control nerve growth downstream of Ras remain incompletely characterized. Here we show that expression specifically within the Drosophila peripheral glia of the constitutively active Ras V12 increases perineurial glial thickness. Using chromosomal loss-of-function mutations and transgenes encoding dominant-negative and constitutively active proteins, we show that this nonautonomous effect of RasV12 is mediated by the Ras effector phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) and its downstream kinase Akt. We also show that the nonautonomous, growth-promoting effects of activated PI3K are suppressed by coexpression within the peripheral glia of FOXO+ (forkhead box O) a transcription factor inhibited by Akt-dependent phosphorylation. We suggest that Ras-PI3K-Akt activity in the peripheral glia promotes growth of the perineurial glia by inhibiting FOXO. In mammalian peripheral nerves, the Schwann cell releases several growth factors that affect the proliferative properties of neighbors. Some of these factors are oversecreted in Nf1 mutants. Our results raise the possibility that neurofibroma formation in individuals with neurofibromatosis might result in part from a Ras-PI3K-Akt-dependent inhibition of FOXO within Schwann cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)279-288
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 10 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Cell growth
  • Cell nonautonomy
  • FOXO
  • Neurofibromatosis
  • Ras
  • Schwann cell

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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