DSCAM functions as a netrin receptor in commissural axon pathfinding.
ABSTRACT: Down syndrome cell adhesion molecule (DSCAM) is required for axon guidance and dendrite arborization. How DSCAM functions in vertebrates is not well understood. Here we show that DSCAM is expressed on commissural axons and interacts with Netrin-1, a prototypical guidance cue for commissural axons. The knockdown of DSCAM by specific siRNA or blockage of DSCAM signaling by overexpression of a mutant lacking its intracellular domain inhibits netrin-induced axon outgrowth and commissural axon turning in vitro. SiRNA-mediated knockdown of DSCAM in ovo causes defects in commissural axon projection and pathfinding. In transfected cells, DSCAM by itself, in the absence of DCC, is capable of mediating netrin signaling in activating phosphorylation of Fyn and Pak1. These findings demonstrate an essential role of vertebrate DSCAM in axon guidance, indicating that DSCAM functions as a receptor of netrin-1. Our data suggest previously unexpected complexity in receptors that mediate vertebrate netrin signaling.
Project description:Netrin-1 is an evolutionarily conserved, secreted extracellular matrix protein involved in axon guidance at the central nervous system midline. Netrin-1 is expressed by cells localized at the central nervous system midline, such as those of the floor plate in vertebrate embryos. Growth cone turning assays and three-dimensional gel diffusion assays have shown that netrin-1 can attract commissural axons. Loss-of-function experiments further demonstrated that commissural axon extension to the midline is severely impaired in the absence of netrin-1 (refs 3, 7, 8, 9). Together, these data have long supported a model in which commissural axons are attracted by a netrin-1 gradient diffusing from the midline. Here we selectively ablate netrin-1 expression in floor-plate cells using a Ntn1 conditional knockout mouse line. We find that hindbrain and spinal cord commissural axons develop normally in the absence of floor-plate-derived netrin-1. Furthermore, we show that netrin-1 is highly expressed by cells in the ventricular zone, which can release netrin-1 at the pial surface where it binds to commissural axons. Notably, Ntn1 deletion from the ventricular zone phenocopies commissural axon guidance defects previously described in Ntn1-knockout mice. These results show that the classical view that attraction of commissural axons is mediated by a gradient of floor-plate-derived netrin-1 is inaccurate and that netrin-1 primarily acts locally by promoting growth cone adhesion.
Project description:During nervous system development, spinal commissural axons project toward and across the ventral midline. They are guided in part by netrin-1, made by midline cells, which attracts the axons by activating the netrin receptor DCC. However, previous studies suggest that additional receptor components are required. Here, we report that the Down's syndrome Cell Adhesion Molecule (DSCAM), a candidate gene implicated in the mental retardation phenotype of Down's syndrome, is expressed on spinal commissural axons, binds netrin-1, and is necessary for commissural axons to grow toward and across the midline. DSCAM and DCC can each mediate a turning response of these neurons to netrin-1. Similarly, Xenopus spinal neurons exogenously expressing DSCAM can be attracted by netrin-1 independently of DCC. These results show that DSCAM is a receptor that can mediate turning responses to netrin-1 and support a key role for netrin/DSCAM signaling in commissural axon guidance in vertebrates.
Project description:Growing axons are guided to their targets by attractive and repulsive cues. In the developing spinal cord, Netrin-1 and Shh guide commissural axons toward the midline. However, the combined inhibition of their activity in commissural axon turning assays does not completely abrogate turning toward floor plate tissue, suggesting that additional guidance cues are present. Here we show that the prototypic angiogenic factor VEGF is secreted by the floor plate and is a chemoattractant for commissural axons in vitro and in vivo. Inactivation of Vegf in the floor plate or of its receptor Flk1 in commissural neurons causes axon guidance defects, whereas Flk1 blockade inhibits turning of axons to VEGF in vitro. Similar to Shh and Netrin-1, VEGF-mediated commissural axon guidance requires the activity of Src family kinases. Our results identify VEGF and Flk1 as a novel ligand/receptor pair controlling commissural axon guidance.
Project description:During nervous system development, gradients of Sonic Hedgehog (Shh) and Netrin-1 attract growth cones of commissural axons toward the floor plate of the embryonic spinal cord. Mice defective for either Shh or Netrin-1 signaling have commissural axon guidance defects, suggesting that both Shh and Netrin-1 are required for correct axon guidance. However, how Shh and Netrin-1 collaborate to guide axons is not known. We first quantified the steepness of the Shh gradient in the spinal cord and found that it is mostly very shallow. We then developed an in vitro microfluidic guidance assay to simulate these shallow gradients. We found that axons of dissociated commissural neurons respond to steep but not shallow gradients of Shh or Netrin-1. However, when we presented axons with combined Shh and Netrin-1 gradients, they had heightened sensitivity to the guidance cues, turning in response to shallower gradients that were unable to guide axons when only one cue was present. Furthermore, these shallow gradients polarized growth cone Src-family kinase (SFK) activity only when Shh and Netrin-1 were combined, indicating that SFKs can integrate the two guidance cues. Together, our results indicate that Shh and Netrin-1 synergize to enable growth cones to sense shallow gradients in regions of the spinal cord where the steepness of a single guidance cue is insufficient to guide axons, and we identify a novel type of synergy that occurs when the steepness (and not the concentration) of a guidance cue is limiting.
Project description:DCC (Deleted in Colorectal Cancer) is a putative tumor suppressor whose expression is lost in numerous cancers and whose tumor suppressor activity appears to be dependent on its ability to trigger apoptosis when disengaged by its ligand netrin-1. In this sense, netrin-1 is a survival factor that controls tumorigenesis. However, netrin-1 is also the prototypical axon guidance cue and has been shown to orient many neurons or axons, especially commissural axons, during spinal cord development. Here we show that netrin-1 is not only an attractive cue for developing commissural axons but also promotes their survival. In primary neuronal culture, in mice or in chick embryos, netrin-1 inhibits the proapoptotic activity of DCC in developing commissural neurons. Thus, adequate commissural neurons navigation requires both the attractive activity of netrin-1 and the anti-apoptotic function of this cue.
Project description:In vertebrates, spinal commissural axons project along a transverse path toward and across the floor plate (FP). Post-crossing commissural axons alter their responsiveness to FP-associated guidance cues and turn to project longitudinally in a fasciculated manner prior to extending away from the midline. The upregulation of the neural cell adhesion molecule L1 on crossed commissural axon segments has been proposed to facilitate pathfinding on the contralateral side of the FP. To explore this possibility in vivo, we used Math1 regulatory sequences to target L1 to commissural axons before they cross the ventral midline. L1 mis-expression did not alter the distribution of commissural axon-associated markers or the ventral extension of commissural axons toward the midline. However, commissural axons often stalled or inappropriately projected into the longitudinal plane at the ipsilateral FP margin. These observations suggest that L1-mediated pathfinding decisions are normally delayed until axons have crossed the ventral midline (VM).
Project description:The multifunctional protein netrin-1 was initially discovered as the main attractive cue for commissural axon guidance by acting through its receptor DCC. Recently, we have shown that netrin-1 also interacts with the orphan transmembrane receptor amyloid precursor protein (APP). APP is cleaved by proteases, generating amyloid-? peptide, the main component of the amyloid plaques that are associated with Alzheimer disease. Our previous work demonstrated that via its interaction with APP, netrin-1 is a negative regulator of amyloid-? production in adult brain, but the biological relevance of APP/netrin-1 interaction under non-pathological conditions was unknown. We show here that during commissural axon navigation, APP, expressed at the growth cone, is part of the DCC receptor complex mediating netrin-1-dependent axon guidance. APP interacts with DCC in the presence of netrin-1 and enhances netrin-1-mediated DCC intracellular signaling, such as MAPK activation. Inactivation of APP in mice is associated with reduced commissural axon outgrowth. Thus, APP functionally acts as a co-receptor for DCC to mediate axon guidance.
Project description:Commissural axons cross the ventral midline of the neural tube in a Slit-dependent manner. The underlying molecular mechanisms remain unclear. We found that the deubiquitinating enzyme USP33 interacts with the Robo1 receptor. USP33 was essential for midline crossing by commissural axons and for their response to Slit. Our results reveal a previously unknown role for USP33 in vertebrate commissural axon guidance and in Slit signaling.
Project description:Neuronal growth cones follow specific pathways over long distances in order to reach their appropriate targets. Research over the past 15 years has yielded a large body of information concerning the molecules that regulate this process. Some of these molecules, such as the evolutionarily conserved netrin and slit proteins, are expressed in the embryonic midline, an area of extreme importance for early axon pathfinding decisions. A general model has emerged in which netrin attracts commissural axons towards the midline while slit forces them out. However, a large number of commissural axons successfully cross the midline even in the complete absence of netrin signaling, indicating the presence of a yet unidentified midline attractant.The evolutionarily conserved Ig proteins encoded by the turtle/Dasm1 genes are found in Drosophila, Caenorhabditis elegans, and mammals. In Drosophila the turtle gene encodes five proteins, two of which are diffusible, that are expressed in many areas, including the vicinity of the midline. Using both molecular null alleles and transgenic expression of the different isoforms, we show that the turtle encoded proteins function as non-cell autonomous axonal attractants that promote midline crossing via a netrin-independent mechanism. turtle mutants also have either stalled or missing axon projections, while overexpression of the different turtle isoforms produces invasive neurons and branching axons that do not respect the histological divisions of the nervous system.Our findings indicate that the turtle proteins function as axon guidance cues that promote midline attraction, axon branching, and axonal invasiveness. The latter two capabilities are required by migrating axons to explore densely packed targets.
Project description:In vertebrate embryos, most spinal commissural axons cross the ventral midline (VM) and project either alongside or significant distances away from the floor plate (FP). The upregulation of repulsive Robo1/2 receptors on postcrossing commissural axons, in mammals, presumably allows these axons to respond to the midline-associated repellents, Slit1-3, facilitating their expulsion from, and prohibiting their reentry into, the FP. Compelling data suggest that Robo3 represses Robo1/2 function on precrossing axons and that Robo1/2 inhibit attractive guidance receptors on postcrossing axons, thereby ensuring that decussated axons are selectively responsive to midline Slits. However, whether Robo1/2 expel decussated commissural axons from the VM and/or prevent their reentry into the FP has not been explicitly established in vivo. Furthermore, some commissural axons do not require Robo1/2 to elaborate appropriate contralateral projections in the mouse spinal cord. Here, we use unilateral in ovo electroporation together with Atoh1 and Neurog1 enhancer elements to visualize, and assess the consequences of manipulating Robo expression on, dl1 and dl2 chick commissural axons. In response to misexpressing a cytoplasmic truncation of Robo1 and/or Robo2, which should block all Robo-ligand interactions, postcrossing commissural axons extend alongside, but do not project away from or reenter the FP. In contrast, misexpression of full-length Robo2 prevents many commissural axons from crossing the VM. Together, these findings support key and selective in vivo roles for Robo receptors in presumably altering the responsiveness of decussated commissural axons and facilitating their expulsion from the VM within the chick spinal cord.