The peripheral nervous system responds to a wide variety of sensory stimuli, a process that requires great neuronal diversity. These diverse peripheral sensory neurons are closely associated with glial cells that originate from the neural crest (NC). However, the molecular nature and origins of diversity among peripheral glia is not understood. Here we used single cell RNA sequencing to profile and compare developing and mature glia from somatosensory lumbar dorsal root ganglia (DRG) and auditory spiral ganglia (SG). We found that the glial precursors (GPs) differ in their transcriptional profile and prevalence in these two systems. Despite their unique features, somatosensory and auditory GPs undergo convergent differentiation to generate myelinating and non-myelinating Schwann cells that are molecularly uniform. By contrast, although satellite glia surround the neuronal cell bodies in both ganglia, we found that those in the SG express multiple myelination-associated genes, while DRG satellite cells express components that suppress myelination. Lastly, we identified a set of glial signature genes that are also expressed by placode-derived supporting cells, providing new insights into commonalities among glia across the nervous system. This comprehensive survey of gene expression in peripheral glia constitutes a valuable resource for understanding how glia acquire specialized functions and how their roles differ across sensory modalities.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience