Conserved miR-8/miR-200 Defines a Glial Niche that Controls Neuroepithelial Expansion and Neuroblast Transition
Neuroepithelial cell proliferation must be carefully balanced with the transition to neuroblast (neural stem cell) to control neurogenesis. Here we show that, loss of the Drosophila microRNA mir-8 (the homologue of vertebrate miR-200 family) results in both excess proliferation and ectopic neuroblast transition. Unexpectedly, mir-8 is expressed in a subpopulation of optic lobe associated cortex glia that extend processes that ensheath the neuroepithelium, suggesting that glia cells communicate with the neuroepithelium. We provide evidence that miR-8-positive glia express Spitz, a TGF-α-like ligand that triggers EGF receptor activation to promote neuroepithelial proliferation and neuroblast formation. Further, our experiments suggest that miR-8 ensures both a correct glial architecture and the spatio-temporal control of Spitz protein synthesis via direct binding to Spitz 3’UTR. Together, these results establish glial-derived cues as key regulatory elements in the control of neuroepithelial cell proliferation and the neuroblast transition.