Author(s): Bray D
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Abstract Evidence is presented that (a) the growth cone of cultured neurons can exert mechanical tension, and (b) that the direction of advance of the growth cone is determined by the tension existing between it and the rest of the cell. (a) The evidence that growth cones can pull comes from a vectorial analysis of the outlines of individually isolated sensory neurons. The angles formed in these outgrowths are very close to those of tension-generated networks anchored at their free ends and these values are restored shortly after an experimental displacement. The relative mechanical tension on each segment of an outgrowth can be calculated by standard methods and is found to decrease at each branch point. It appears to be correlated with the diameter of the fibre so that thicker fibres maintain more tension than thinner ones. (b) The influence of tension on the direction of advance of the growth cone is shown by 2 kinds of experient. If a growing neurite is pulled to one side with a microelectrode then the direction of its advance is changed immediately according to the new stress. If the mechanical tension on the growth cone of a neurite is released by amputation or displacement the growth cone is found to have a high probability of branching shortly afterwards. The ability of the growth cone to exert tension is discussed in relation to evidence that microspikes have contractile properties and in terms of the distribution of microfilaments within the neurite. It is suggested that the exertion of tension by a growth cone could serve to guide the neurite along paths of high adhesivity both in vitro and in vivo.
This article was published in J Cell Sci
and referenced in Single Cell Biology