Author(s): Laumonnerie C, Da Silva RV, Kania A, Wilson SI
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Abstract The establishment of anatomically stereotyped axonal projections is fundamental to neuronal function. While most neurons project their axons within the central nervous system (CNS), only axons of centrally born motoneurons and peripherally born sensory neurons link the CNS and peripheral nervous system (PNS) together by navigating through specialized CNS/PNS transition zones. Such selective restriction is of importance because inappropriate CNS axonal exit could lead to loss of correct connectivity and also to gain of erroneous functions. However, to date, surprisingly little is known about the molecular-genetic mechanisms that regulate how central axons are confined within the CNS during development. Here, we show that netrin 1/Dcc/Unc5 chemotropism contributes to axonal confinement within the CNS. In both Ntn1 and Dcc mutant mouse embryos, some spinal interneuronal axons exit the CNS by traversing the CNS/PNS transition zones normally reserved for motor and sensory axons. We provide evidence that netrin 1 signalling preserves CNS/PNS axonal integrity in three ways: (1) netrin 1/Dcc ventral attraction diverts axons away from potential exit points; (2) a Dcc/Unc5c-dependent netrin 1 chemoinhibitory barrier in the dorsolateral spinal cord prevents interneurons from being close to the dorsal CNS/PNS transition zone; and (3) a netrin 1/Dcc-dependent, Unc5c-independent mechanism that actively prevents exit from the CNS. Together, these findings provide insights into the molecular mechanisms that maintain CNS/PNS integrity and, to the best of our knowledge, present the first evidence that chemotropic signalling regulates interneuronal CNS axonal confinement in vertebrates.
This article was published in Development
and referenced in Journal of Vascular Medicine & Surgery
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