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Chemical gradient steers nerve growth in spinal cord

nal cord, up to the brain is a long and complicated one. It relies on the coordinated action of several signaling systems, each controlling one part of the journey then handing off to a different set of cues.

Substances known as Netrin-1 and Sonic hedgehog, for example, tell the axons from commissural neurons to grow from the back of the spinal cord to the front. As these axons cross the midline, they stop responding to Netrin and Sonic hedgehog but begin to respond to a new set of proteins, known as Slits and Semaphorins, that repel them, shifting the axis of growth away from back to front (dorsal-ventral) and toward top to bottom (anterior-posterior).

At that point, Wnt proteins take over, drawing the axons up toward the brain. Without the Wnt/Frizzled signaling, the axons wander aimlessly, "knotting and stalling," noted the authors.

These findings will also allow scientists to explore "how growth cones undergo remodeling during navigation so that they constantly adjust the direction of their growth," Zou added. "This should help explain how the complicated connections in our nervous system are established and potentially lead to ways to remobilize the guidance programs to repair the damaged circuits in adulthood."


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Contact: John Easton
jeaston@uchospitals.edu
773-702-6241
University of Chicago Medical Center
11-Dec-2003


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