Ephexin1 Is Required for Eph-Mediated Limb Trajectory of Spinal Motor Axons.
ABSTRACT: The precise assembly of a functional nervous system relies on the guided migration of axonal growth cones, which is made possible by signals transmitted to the cytoskeleton by cell surface-expressed guidance receptors. We investigated the function of ephexin1, a Rho guanine nucleotide exchange factor, as an essential growth-cone guidance intermediary in the context of spinal lateral motor column (LMC) motor axon trajectory selection in the limb mesenchyme. Using in situ mRNA detection, we first show that ephexin1 is expressed in LMC neurons of chick and mouse embryos at the time of spinal motor axon extension into the limb. Ephexin1 loss of function and gain of function using in ovo electroporation in chick LMC neurons, of either sex, perturbed LMC axon trajectory selection, demonstrating an essential role of ephexin1 in motor axon guidance. In addition, ephexin1 loss in mice of either sex led to LMC axon trajectory selection errors. We also show that ephexin1 knockdown attenuates the growth preference of LMC neurites against ephrins in vitro and Eph receptor-mediated retargeting of LMC axons in vivo, suggesting that ephexin1 is required in Eph-mediated LMC motor axon guidance. Finally, both ephexin1 knockdown and ectopic expression of nonphosphorylatable ephexin1 mutant attenuated the retargeting of LMC axons caused by Src overexpression, implicating ephexin1 as an Src target in Eph signal relay in this context. In summary, our findings demonstrate that ephexin1 is essential for motor axon guidance and suggest an important role in relaying ephrin:Eph signals that mediate motor axon trajectory selection.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT The proper development of functioning neural circuits requires precise nerve connections among neurons or between neurons and their muscle targets. The Eph tyrosine kinase receptors expressed in neurons are important in many contexts during neural-circuit formation, such as axon outgrowth, axon guidance, and synaptic formation, and have been suggested to be involved in neurodegenerative disorders, including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and Alzheimer's disease. To dissect the mechanism of Eph signal relay, we studied ephexin1 gain of function and loss of function and found ephexin1 essential for the development of limb nerves toward their muscle targets, concluding that it functions as an intermediary to relay Eph signaling in this context. Our work could thus shed new light on the molecular mechanisms controlling neuromuscular connectivity during embryonic development.
Project description:Signal relay by guidance receptors at the axonal growth cone is a process essential for the assembly of a functional nervous system. We investigated the in vivo function of Src family kinases (SFKs) as growth cone guidance signaling intermediates in the context of spinal lateral motor column (LMC) motor axon projection toward the ventral or dorsal limb mesenchyme. Using in situ mRNA detection we determined that Src and Fyn are expressed in LMC motor neurons of chick and mouse embryos at the time of limb trajectory selection. Inhibition of SFK activity by C-terminal Src kinase (Csk) overexpression in chick LMC axons using in ovo electroporation resulted in LMC axons selecting the inappropriate dorsoventral trajectory within the limb mesenchyme, with medial LMC axon projecting into the dorsal and ventral limb nerve with apparently random incidence. We also detected LMC axon trajectory choice errors in Src mutant mice demonstrating a nonredundant role for Src in motor axon guidance in agreement with gain and loss of Src function in chick LMC neurons which led to the redirection of LMC axons. Finally, Csk-mediated SFK inhibition attenuated the retargeting of LMC axons caused by EphA or EphB over-expression, implying the participation of SFKs in Eph-mediated LMC motor axon guidance. In summary, our findings demonstrate that SFKs are essential for motor axon guidance and suggest that they play an important role in relaying ephrin:Eph signals that mediate the selection of motor axon trajectory in the limb.
Project description:Topographic neuronal maps arise as a consequence of axon trajectory choice correlated with the localisation of neuronal soma, but the identity of the pathways coordinating these processes is unknown. We addressed this question in the context of the myotopic map formed by limb muscles innervated by spinal lateral motor column (LMC) motor axons where the Eph receptor signals specifying growth cone trajectory are restricted by Foxp1 and Lhx1 transcription factors. We show that the localisation of LMC neuron cell bodies can be dissociated from axon trajectory choice by either the loss or gain of function of the Reelin signalling pathway. The response of LMC motor neurons to Reelin is gated by Foxp1- and Lhx1-mediated regulation of expression of the critical Reelin signalling intermediate Dab1. Together, these observations point to identical transcription factors that control motor axon guidance and soma migration and reveal the molecular hierarchy of myotopic organisation.
Project description:Axonal guidance involves extrinsic molecular cues that bind growth cone receptors and signal to the cytoskeleton through divergent pathways. Some signaling intermediates are deployed downstream of molecularly distinct axon guidance receptor families, but the scope of this overlap is unclear, as is the impact of embryonic axon guidance fidelity on adult nervous system function. Here, we demonstrate that the Rho-GTPase-activating protein ?2-chimaerin is specifically required for EphA and not EphB receptor signaling in mouse and chick spinal motor axons. Reflecting this specificity, the loss of ?2-chimaerin function disrupts the limb trajectory of extensor-muscle-innervating motor axons the guidance of which depends on EphA signaling. These embryonic defects affect coordinated contraction of antagonistic flexor-extensor muscles in the adult, indicating that accurate embryonic motor axon guidance is critical for optimal neuromuscular function. Together, our observations provide the first functional evidence of an Eph receptor-class-specific intracellular signaling protein that is required for appropriate neuromuscular connectivity.
Project description:Neuronal topographic map formation requires appropriate selection of axonal trajectories at intermediate choice points prior to target innervation. Axons of neurons in the spinal cord lateral motor column (LMC), as defined by a transcription factor code, are thought to innervate limb target tissues exclusively. Axons of the medial and lateral LMC divisions appear to execute a binary decision at the base of the limb as they choose between ventral and dorsal limb trajectories. The cellular logic that guides motor axon trajectory choices into non-limb tissues such as the ventral flank remains unclear.We determined the spinal cord motor column origin of motor nerves that innervate ventral flank tissues at hindlimb level. We found unexpectedly that a subset of medial LMC axons innervates ventral non-limb mesenchyme at hindlimb level, rather than entering ventral limb mesenchyme. We also found that in a conditional BmprIa mutant where all ventral hindlimb mesenchyme is converted to a dorsal identity, all medial LMC axons are redirected into the ventral flank, while lateral LMC axons innervate the bidorsal limb.We have found that medial LMC neurons innervate both ventral flank and limb targets. While normally only a subset of medial LMC axons innervate the flank, all are capable of doing so. Furthermore, LMC axons execute a ternary, rather than binary, choice at the base of the limb between ventral flank, ventral limb and dorsal limb trajectories. When making this choice, medial and lateral LMC axons exhibit different and asymmetric relative preferences for these three trajectories. These data redefine the LMC as a motor column that innervates both limb and body tissues.
Project description:Eph receptors and their ephrin ligands are key conserved regulators of axon guidance and can function in a variety of signaling modes. Here we analyze the genetic and cellular requirements for Eph signaling in a Caenorhabditis elegans axon guidance choice point, the ventral guidance of axons in the amphid commissure. The C. elegans Eph receptor EFN-1 has both kinase-dependent and kinase-independent roles in amphid ventral guidance. Of the four C. elegans ephrins, we find that only EFN-1 has a major role in amphid axon ventral guidance, and signals in both a receptor kinase-dependent and kinase-independent manner. Analysis of EFN-1 and EFN-1 expression and tissue-specific requirements is consistent with a model in which VAB-1 acts in amphid neurons, interacting with EFN-1 expressed on surrounding cells. Unexpectedly, left-hand neurons are more strongly affected than right-hand neurons by loss of Eph signaling, indicating a previously undetected left-right asymmetry in the requirement for Eph signaling. By screening candidate genes involved in Eph signaling, we find that the Eph kinase-independent pathway involves the ABL-1 nonreceptor tyrosine kinase and possibly the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase pathway. Overexpression of ABL-1 is sufficient to rescue EFN-1 ventral guidance defects cell autonomously. Our results reveal new aspects of Eph signaling in a single axon guidance decision in vivo.
Project description:Spinal motor neurons (MNs) control diverse motor tasks including respiration, posture and locomotion that are disrupted by neurodegenerative diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and spinal muscular atrophy. Methods directing MN differentiation from stem cells have been developed to enable disease modelling in vitro. However, most protocols produce only a limited subset of endogenous MN subtypes. Here we demonstrate that limb-innervating lateral motor column (LMC) MNs can be efficiently generated from mouse and human embryonic stem cells through manipulation of the transcription factor Foxp1. Foxp1-programmed MNs exhibit features of medial and lateral LMC MNs including expression of specific motor pool markers and axon guidance receptors. Importantly, they preferentially project axons towards limb muscle explants in vitro and distal limb muscles in vivo upon transplantation-hallmarks of bona fide LMC MNs. These results present an effective approach for generating specific MN populations from stem cells for studying MN development and disease.
Project description:Axonal growth cones are guided by molecular cues in the extracellular environment. The mechanisms of combinatorial integration of guidance signals at the growth cone cell membrane are still being unravelled. Limb-innervating axons of vertebrate spinal lateral motor column (LMC) neurons are attracted to netrin-1 via its receptor, Neogenin, and are repelled from ephrin-A5 through its receptor EphA4. The presence of both cues elicits synergistic guidance of LMC axons, but the mechanism of this effect remains unknown. Using fluorescence immunohistochemistry, we show that ephrin-A5 increases LMC growth cone Neogenin protein levels and netrin-1 binding. This effect is enhanced by overexpressing EphA4 and is inhibited by blocking ephrin-A5-EphA4 binding. These effects have a functional consequence on LMC growth cone responses since bath addition of ephrin-A5 increases the responsiveness of LMC axons to netrin-1. Surprisingly, the overexpression of EphA4 lacking its cytoplasmic tail, also enhances Neogenin levels at the growth cone and potentiates LMC axon preference for growth on netrin-1. Since netrins and ephrins participate in a wide variety of biological processes, the enhancement of netrin-1 signalling by ephrins may have broad implications.
Project description:We previously reported functional regeneration of Caenorhabditis elegans motor neurons after femtosecond laser axotomy. We report here that multiple neuronal types can regrow after laser axotomy using a variety of lasers. The precise pattern of regrowth varies with cell type, stage of animal, and position of axotomy. Mechanosensory axons cut in late larval or adult stages displayed extensive regrowth, yet failed to reach their target area because of guidance errors in the anteroposterior axis. By contrast, mechanosensory axons cut in early larval stages regrew at the same rate but with fewer anteroposterior guidance errors, and were more likely to reach their target area. In adult animals lacking the VAB-1 Eph receptor tyrosine kinase, mechanosensory axon regrowth was more accurate than in the wild type, suggesting that guidance errors of regrowing touch neuron axons are the result of Eph signaling. Kinase-dependent and kinase-independent Eph signaling influenced outgrowth and guidance of regrowing touch neurons, respectively. Mechanosensory neurons regrew when severed proximal to their collateral synaptic branch but did not regrow when severed distal to the branch point. However, the distal axon could regrow if the branch is removed surgically at the same time as distal axotomy, or at a later time. The touch neuron synaptic branch point may act as a sorting area to regulate growth. These findings reveal that multiple influences affect regenerative growth in C. elegans neurons.
Project description:The rich functional diversity of the nervous system is founded in the specific connectivity of the underlying neural circuitry. Neurons are often preprogrammed to respond to multiple axon guidance signals because they use sequential guideposts along their pathways, but this necessitates a strict spatiotemporal regulation of intracellular signaling to ensure the cues are detected in the correct order. We performed a mouse mutagenesis screen and identified the Rho GTPase antagonist p190RhoGAP as a critical regulator of motor axon guidance. Rather than acting as a compulsory signal relay, p190RhoGAP uses a non-conventional GAP-independent mode to transiently suppress attraction to Netrin-1 while motor axons exit the spinal cord. Once in the periphery, a subset of axons requires p190RhoGAP-mediated inhibition of Rho signaling to target specific muscles. Thus, the multifunctional activity of p190RhoGAP emerges from its modular design. Our findings reveal a cell-intrinsic gate that filters conflicting signals, establishing temporal windows of signal detection.
Project description:The Eph receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs) are regulators of cell migration and axon guidance. However, our understanding of the molecular mechanisms by which Eph RTKs regulate these processes is still incomplete. To understand how Eph receptors regulate axon guidance in Caenorhabditis elegans, we screened for suppressors of axon guidance defects caused by a hyperactive VAB-1/Eph RTK. We identified NCK-1 and WSP-1/N-WASP as downstream effectors of VAB-1. Furthermore, VAB-1, NCK-1, and WSP-1 can form a complex in vitro. We also report that NCK-1 can physically bind UNC-34/Enabled (Ena), and suggest that VAB-1 inhibits the NCK-1/UNC-34 complex and negatively regulates UNC-34. Our results provide a model of the molecular events that allow the VAB-1 RTK to regulate actin dynamics for axon guidance. We suggest that VAB-1/Eph RTK can stop axonal outgrowth by inhibiting filopodia formation at the growth cone by activating Arp2/3 through a VAB-1/NCK-1/WSP-1 complex and by inhibiting UNC-34/Ena activity.