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Development. 2009 Feb;136(3):415-26. doi: 10.1242/dev.018234.

Netrin 1 and Dcc regulate oligodendrocyte process branching and membrane extension via Fyn and RhoA.

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  • 1Montreal Neurological Institute, Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec H3A 2B4, Canada.


The molecular mechanisms underlying the elaboration of branched processes during the later stages of oligodendrocyte maturation are not well understood. Here we describe a novel role for the chemotropic guidance cue netrin 1 and its receptor deleted in colorectal carcinoma (Dcc) in the remodeling of oligodendrocyte processes. Postmigratory, premyelinating oligodendrocytes express Dcc but not netrin 1, whereas mature myelinating oligodendrocytes express both. We demonstrate that netrin 1 promotes process extension by premyelinating oligodendrocytes in vitro and in vivo. Addition of netrin 1 to mature oligodendrocytes in vitro evoked a Dcc-dependent increase in process branching. Furthermore, expression of netrin 1 and Dcc by mature oligodendrocytes was required for the elaboration of myelin-like membrane sheets. Maturation of oligodendrocyte processes requires intracellular signaling mechanisms involving Fyn, focal adhesion kinase (FAK), neuronal Wiscott-Aldrich syndrome protein (N-WASP) and RhoA; however, the extracellular cues upstream of these proteins in oligodendrocytes are poorly defined. We identify a requirement for Src family kinase activity downstream of netrin-1-dependent process extension and branching. Using oligodendrocytes derived from Fyn knockout mice, we demonstrate that Fyn is essential for netrin-1-induced increases in process branching. Netrin 1 binding to Dcc on mature oligodendrocytes recruits Fyn to a complex with the Dcc intracellular domain that includes FAK and N-WASP, resulting in the inhibition of RhoA and inducing process remodeling. These findings support a novel role for netrin 1 in promoting oligodendrocyte process branching and myelin-like membrane sheet formation. These essential steps in oligodendroglial maturation facilitate the detection of target axons, a key step towards myelination.

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