CNS-derived glia ensheath peripheral nerves and mediate motor root development.
Motor function requires that motor axons extend from the spinal cord at regular intervals and that they are myelinated by Schwann cells. Little attention has been given to another cellular structure, the perineurium, which ensheaths the motor nerve, forming a flexible, protective barrier. Consequently, the origin of perineurial cells and their roles in motor nerve formation are poorly understood. Using time-lapse imaging in zebrafish, we show that perineurial cells are born in the CNS, arising as ventral spinal-cord glia before migrating into the periphery. In embryos lacking perineurial glia, motor neurons inappropriately migrated outside of the spinal cord and had aberrant axonal projections, indicating that perineurial glia carry out barrier and guidance functions at motor axon exit points. Additionally, reciprocal signaling between perineurial glia and Schwann cells was necessary for motor nerve ensheathment by both cell types. These insights reveal a new class of CNS-born glia that critically contributes to motor nerve development.