Engulfed by glia: Glial pruning in development, function, and injury across species

Stephan Raiders, Taeho Han, Nicole Scott-Hewitt, Sarah Kucenas, Deborah Lew, Mary A. Logan, Aakanksha Singhvi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Phagocytic activity of glial cells is essential for proper nervous system sculpting, maintenance of circuitry, and long-term brain health. Glial engulfment of apoptotic cells and superfluous connections ensures that neuronal connections are appropriately refined, while clearance of damaged projections and neurotoxic proteins in the mature brain protects against inflammatory insults. Comparative work across species and cell types in recent years highlights the striking conservation of pathways that govern glial engulfment. Many signaling cascades used during developmental pruning are re-employed in the mature brain to “fine tune” synaptic architecture and even clear neuronal debris following traumatic events. Moreover, the neuron-glia signaling events required to trigger and perform phagocytic responses are impressively conserved between invertebrates and vertebrates. This review offers a compare-and-contrast portrayal of recent findings that underscore the value of investigating glial engulfment mechanisms in a wide range of species and contexts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)823-833
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number5
StatePublished - Feb 3 2021


  • Glia
  • Model organisms
  • Neuronal pruning
  • Phagocytosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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