Consulting Professor, Biology
During embryonic development, morphogens act as graded positional cues to dictate cell fate specification and tissue patterning. Recent findings indicate that morphogen gradients also serve to guide axonal pathfinding during development of the nervous system. These findings challenge our previous notions about morphogens and axon guidance molecules, and suggest that these proteins, rather than having sharply divergent functions, act more globally to provide graded positional information that can be interpreted by responding cells either to specify cell fate or to direct axonal pathfinding. This review presents the roles identified for members of three prominent morphogen families--the Hedgehog, Wnt and TGFbeta/BMP families--in axon guidance, and discusses potential implications for the molecular mechanisms underlying their guidance functions.
View details for DOI 10.1242/dev.01830
View details for Web of Science ID 000229890600001
View details for PubMedID 15857918
The class 3 Semaphorins Sema3A and Sema3F are potent axonal repellents that cause repulsion by binding Neuropilin-1 and Neuropilin-2, respectively. Plexins are implicated as signaling coreceptors for the Neuropilins, but the identity of the Plexins that transduce Sema3A and Sema3F responses in vivo is uncertain. Here, we show that Plexin-A3 and -A4 are key determinants of these responses, through analysis of a Plexin-A3/Plexin-A4 double mutant mouse. Sensory and sympathetic neurons from the double mutant are insensitive to Sema3A and Sema3F in vitro, and defects in axonal projections in vivo correspond to those seen in Neuropilin-1 and -2 mutants. Interestingly, we found a differential requirement for these two Plexins: signaling via Neuropilin-1 is mediated principally by Plexin-A4, whereas signaling via Neuropilin-2 is mediated principally by Plexin-A3. Thus, Plexin-A3 and -A4 contribute to the specificity of axonal responses to class 3 Semaphorins.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.neuron.2005.01.013
View details for Web of Science ID 000227099700008
View details for PubMedID 15721238
Axon regeneration failure in the adult mammalian CNS is attributed in part to the inhibitory nature of CNS myelin. Three myelin-associated, structurally distinct proteins, Nogo, myelin-associated glycoprotein, and oligodendrocyte myelin glycoprotein, have been implicated in this inhibition. Neuronal Nogo receptor (NgR) binds to each of the three inhibitors and has been proposed to mediate their inhibitory signals by complexing with a signal-transducing coreceptor, the neurotrophin receptor p75(NTR). To assess the contribution of NgR to mediating myelin inhibitory signals and regeneration failure in vivo, we generated and characterized NgR-deficient mice. Nogo transcripts are up-regulated in NgR mutants, indicating that NgR regulates Nogo in vivo. However, neurite outgrowth from NgR-deficient postnatal dorsal root ganglion or cerebellar granule neurons is inhibited by myelin and by a Nogo-66 substrate to the same extent as is from wild-type neurons, whereas p75(NTR)-deficient neurons are less inhibited. The NgR ligand-binding domain promotes neurite outgrowth on Nogo-66, regardless of the genotype of the neurons, indicating that the NgR ligand-binding domain can act independent of NgR. Thus, NgR is not essential for mediating inhibitory signals from CNS myelin, at least in the neurons tested, whereas p75(NTR) plays a central role in this response. Neither NgR-nor p75(NTR)-deficient mice showed enhanced regeneration of corticospinal tract axons in comparison with wild-type controls after spinal dorsal hemisection. Our results thus fail to support a central role for NgR in axonal growth inhibition in vitro or in corticospinal tract regeneration block in vivo.
View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.0409026102
View details for Web of Science ID 000226617900045
View details for PubMedID 15647357
Nogo-66, the extracellular 66 aa loop of the Nogo-A protein found in CNS myelin, interacts with the Nogo receptor and has been proposed to mediate inhibition of axonal regrowth. It has been shown that immunization with Nogo-A promotes recovery in animal models of spinal cord injury through induction of Ab production. In this report, studies were performed to characterize the immune response to Nogo-66 and to determine the role of Nogo in experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE). Immunization of EAE-susceptible mouse strains with peptides derived from Nogo-66 induced a CNS immune response with clinical and pathological similarities to EAE. The Nogo-66 peptides elicited strong T cell responses that were not cross-reactive to other encephalitogenic myelin Ags. Using a large scale spotted microarray containing proteins and peptides derived from a wide spectrum of myelin components, we demonstrated that Nogo-66 peptides also generated a specific Ab response that spreads to several other encephalitogenic myelin Ags following immunization. Nogo-66-specific T cell lines ameliorated established EAE, via Nogo-66-specific Th2 cells that entered the CNS. These results indicate that some T cell and B cell immune responses to Nogo-66 are associated with suppression of ongoing EAE, whereas other Nogo-66 epitopes can be encephalitogenic.
View details for Web of Science ID 000225307500059
View details for PubMedID 15557195
Blood vessels and nerves are complex, branched structures that share a high degree of anatomical similarity. Guidance of vessels and nerves has to be exquisitely regulated to ensure proper wiring of both systems. Several regulators of axon guidance have been identified and some of these are also expressed in endothelial cells; however, the extent to which their guidance functions are conserved in the vascular system is still incompletely understood. We show here that the repulsive netrin receptor UNC5B is expressed by endothelial tip cells of the vascular system. Disruption of the Unc5b gene in mice, or of Unc5b or netrin-1a in zebrafish, leads to aberrant extension of endothelial tip cell filopodia, excessive vessel branching and abnormal navigation. Netrin-1 causes endothelial filopodial retraction, but only when UNC5B is present. Thus, UNC5B functions as a repulsive netrin receptor in endothelial cells controlling morphogenesis of the vascular system.
View details for DOI 10.1038/nature03080
View details for Web of Science ID 000225020200036
View details for PubMedID 15510105
Leucine-rich repeat-containing, G protein-coupled receptors (LGRs) belong to the largest mammalian superfamily of proteins with seven-transmembrane domains. LGRs can be divided into three subgroups based on their unique domain arrangement. Although two subgroups have been found to be receptors for glycoprotein hormones and relaxin-related ligands, respectively, the third LGR subgroup, consisting of LGR4-6, are orphan receptors with unknown physiological roles. To elucidate the functions of this subgroup of LGRs, LGR4 null mice were generated using a secretory trap approach to delete the majority of the LGR4 gene after the insertion of a beta-galactosidase reporter gene immediately after exon 1. Tissues expressing LGR4 were analyzed based on histochemical staining of the transgene driven by the endogenous LGR4 promoter. LGR4 was widely expressed in kidney, adrenal gland, stomach, intestine, heart, bone/cartilage, and other tissues. The expression of LGR4 in these tissues was further confirmed by immunohistochemical studies in wild-type animals. Analysis of the viability of 250 newborn animals suggested a skewed inheritance pattern, indicating that only 40% of the expected LGR4 null mice were born. For the LGR4 null mice viable at birth, most of them died within 2 d. Furthermore, the LGR4 null mice showed intrauterine growth retardation as reflected by a 14% decrease in body weight at birth, together with 30% and 40% decreases in kidney and liver weights, respectively. The present findings demonstrate the widespread expression of LGR4, and an essential role of LGR4 for embryonic growth, as well as kidney and liver development. The observed pre- and postnatal lethality of LGR4 null mice illustrates the importance of the LGR4 signaling system for the survival and growth of animals during the perinatal stage.
View details for DOI 10.1210/me.2004-0133
View details for Web of Science ID 000223540900009
View details for PubMedID 15192078
During axon guidance, the ventral guidance of the Caenorhabditis elegans anterior ventral microtubule axon is controlled by two cues, the UNC-6/netrin attractant recognized by the UNC-40/DCC receptor and the SLT-1/slit repellent recognized by the SAX-3/robo receptor. We show here that loss-of-function mutations in clr-1 enhance netrin-dependent attraction, suppressing ventral guidance defects in slt-1 mutants. clr-1 encodes a transmembrane receptor protein tyrosine phosphatase (RPTP) that functions in AVM to inhibit signaling through the DCC family receptor UNC-40 and its effector, UNC-34/enabled. The known effects of other RPTPs in axon guidance could result from modulation of guidance receptors like UNC-40/DCC.
View details for Web of Science ID 000222386000046
View details for PubMedID 15232111
In addition to the apical-basal polarity pathway operating in epithelial cells, a planar cell polarity (PCP) pathway establishes polarity within the plane of epithelial tissues and is conserved from Drosophila to mammals. In Drosophila, a 'core' group of PCP genes including frizzled (fz), flamingo/starry night, dishevelled (dsh), Van Gogh/strabismus and prickle, function to regulate wing hair, bristle and ommatidial polarity. In vertebrates, the PCP pathway regulates convergent extension movements and neural tube closure, as well as the orientation of stereociliary bundles of sensory hair cells in the inner ear. Here we show that a mutation in the mouse protein tyrosine kinase 7 (PTK7) gene, which encodes an evolutionarily conserved transmembrane protein with tyrosine kinase homology, disrupts neural tube closure and stereociliary bundle orientation, and shows genetic interactions with a mutation in the mouse Van Gogh homologue vangl2. We also show that PTK7 is dynamically localized during hair cell polarization, and that the Xenopus homologue of PTK7 is required for neural convergent extension and neural tube closure. These results identify PTK7 as a novel regulator of PCP in vertebrates.
View details for DOI 10.1038/nature02677
View details for Web of Science ID 000222356800050
View details for PubMedID 15229603
In Drosophila, Slit at the midline activates Robo receptors on commissural axons, thereby repelling them out of the midline into distinct longitudinal tracts on the contralateral side of the central nervous system. In the vertebrate spinal cord, Robo1 and Robo2 are expressed by commissural neurons, whereas all three Slit homologs are expressed at the ventral midline. Previous analysis of Slit1;Slit2 double mutant spinal cords failed to reveal a defect in commissural axon guidance. We report here that when all six Slit alleles are removed, many commissural axons fail to leave the midline, while others recross it. In addition, Robo1 and Robo2 single mutants show guidance defects that reveal a role for these two receptors in guiding commissural axons to different positions within the ventral and lateral funiculi. These results demonstrate a key role for Slit/Robo signaling in midline commissural axon guidance in vertebrates.
View details for Web of Science ID 000221458500007
View details for PubMedID 15091338
Neuronal axons connect to multiple target cells through the formation of collateral branches, but the mechanisms that regulate this process are largely unknown. We show that BAM-2, a neurexin-related transmembrane protein, is required for development of VC motoneuron branches in the worm Caenorhabditis elegans. Expression analysis and ectopic expression experiments suggest that BAM-2 functions as a branch termination cue and reveal a mechanism for selective control of branches that sprout off a primary axon.
View details for Web of Science ID 000185825900044
View details for PubMedID 14551437
Axon outgrowth is the first step in the formation of neuronal connections, but the pathways that regulate axon extension are still poorly understood. We find that mice deficient in calcineurin-NFAT signaling have dramatic defects in axonal outgrowth, yet have little or no defect in neuronal differentiation or survival. In vitro, sensory and commissural neurons lacking calcineurin function or NFATc2, c3, and c4 are unable to respond to neurotrophins or netrin-1 with efficient axonal outgrowth. Neurotrophins and netrins stimulate calcineurin-dependent nuclear localization of NFATc4 and activation of NFAT-mediated gene transcription in cultured primary neurons. These data indicate that the ability of these embryonic axons to respond to growth factors with rapid outgrowth requires activation of calcineurin/NFAT signaling by these factors. The precise parsing of signals for elongation turning and survival could allow independent control of these processes during development.
View details for Web of Science ID 000183397600015
View details for PubMedID 12787506
The failure of regeneration of severed axons in the adult mammalian central nervous system is thought to be due partly to the presence of endogenous inhibitors of axon regeneration. The nogo gene encodes three proteins (Nogo-A, -B, and -C) that have been proposed to contribute to this inhibition. To determine whether deletion of nogo enhances regenerative ability, we generated two lines of mutant mice, one lacking Nogo-A and -B but not -C (Nogo-A/B mutant), and one deficient in all three isoforms (Nogo-A/B/C mutant). Although Nogo-A/B-deficient myelin has reduced inhibitory activity in a neurite outgrowth assay in vitro, tracing of corticospinal tract fibers after dorsal hemisection of the spinal cord did not reveal an obvious increase in regeneration or sprouting of these fibers in either mouse line, suggesting that elimination of Nogo alone is not sufficient to induce extensive axon regeneration.
View details for Web of Science ID 000182498300011
View details for PubMedID 12718856
Developing axons are guided to their targets by attractive and repulsive guidance cues. In the embryonic spinal cord, the floor plate chemoattractant Netrin-1 is required to guide commissural neuron axons to the midline. However, genetic evidence suggests that other chemoattractant(s) are also involved. We show that the morphogen Sonic hedgehog (Shh) can mimic the additional chemoattractant activity of the floor plate in vitro and can act directly as a chemoattractant on isolated axons. Cyclopamine-mediated inhibition of the Shh signaling mediator Smoothened (Smo) or conditional inactivation of Smo in commissural neurons indicate that Smo activity is important for the additional chemoattractant activity of the floor plate in vitro and for the normal projection of commissural axons to the floor plate in vivo. These results provide evidence that Shh, acting via Smo, is a midline-derived chemoattractant for commissural axons and show that a morphogen can also act as an axonal chemoattractant.
View details for Web of Science ID 000182282900003
View details for PubMedID 12679031
View details for PubMedID 16033159
Axonal growth cones that cross the nervous system midline change their responsiveness to midline guidance cues: They become repelled by the repellent Slit and simultaneously lose responsiveness to the attractant netrin. These mutually reinforcing changes help to expel growth cones from the midline by making a once-attractive environment appear repulsive. Here, we provide evidence that these two changes are causally linked: In the growth cones of embryonic Xenopus spinal axons, activation of the Slit receptor Roundabout (Robo) silences the attractive effect of netrin-1, but not its growth-stimulatory effect, through direct binding of the cytoplasmic domain of Robo to that of the netrin receptor DCC. Biologically, this hierarchical silencing mechanism helps to prevent a tug-of-war between attractive and repulsive signals in the growth cone that might cause confusion. Molecularly, silencing is enabled by a modular and interlocking design of the cytoplasmic domains of these potentially antagonistic receptors that predetermines the outcome of their simultaneous activation.
View details for Web of Science ID 000167401600037
View details for PubMedID 11239147
The search to understand the mechanisms regulating brain wiring has relied on biochemical purification approaches in vertebrates and genetic approaches in invertebrates to identify molecular cues and receptors for axon guidance. Here we describe a phenotype-based gene-trap screen in mice designed for the large-scale identification of genes controlling the formation of the trillions of connections in the mammalian brain. The method incorporates an axonal marker, which helps to identify cell-autonomous mechanisms in axon guidance, and has generated a resource of mouse lines with striking patterns of axonal labelling, which facilitates analysis of the normal wiring diagram of the brain. Studies of two of these mouse lines have identified an in vivo guidance function for a vertebrate transmembrane semaphorin, Sema6A, and have helped re-evaluate that of the Eph receptor EphA4.
View details for Web of Science ID 000167320500036
View details for PubMedID 11242070
Commissural axons cross the nervous system midline and then turn to grow alongside it, neither recrossing nor projecting back into ventral regions. In Drosophila, the midline repellent Slit prevents recrossing: axons cross once because they are initially unresponsive to Slit, becoming responsive only upon crossing. We show that commissural axons in mammals similarly acquire responsiveness to a midline repellent activity upon crossing. Remarkably, they also become responsive to a repellent activity from ventral spinal cord, helping explain why they never reenter that region. Several Slit and Semaphorin proteins, expressed in midline and/or ventral tissues, mimic these repellent activities, and midline guidance defects are observed in mice lacking neuropilin-2, a Semaphorin receptor. Thus, Slit and Semaphorin repellents from midline and nonmidline tissues may help prevent crossing axons from reentering gray matter, squeezing them into surrounding fiber tracts.
View details for Web of Science ID 000088625600011
View details for PubMedID 10975526
During development, neurons extend axons to their targets, then become dependent for their survival on trophic substances secreted by their target cells. Competition for limiting amounts of these substances is thought to account for much of the extensive naturally-occurring cell death that is seen throughout the nervous system. Here we show that spinal commissural neurons, a group of long projection neurons in the central nervous system (CNS), are also dependent for their survival on trophic support from one of their intermediate targets, the floor plate of the spinal cord. This dependence occurs during a several-day-long period when their axons extend along the floor plate, following which they develop additional trophic requirements. A dependence of neurons on trophic support derived en passant from their intermediate axonal targets provides a mechanism for rapidly eliminating misprojecting neurons, which may help to prevent the formation of aberrant neuronal circuits during the development of the nervous system.
View details for Web of Science ID 000083368700045
View details for PubMedID 10548102