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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.

PROVIDER: S-EPMC6705882 | BioStudies |

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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