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PLoS One. 2013 Sep 16;8(9):e74908. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0074908. eCollection 2013.

A network of HSPG core proteins and HS modifying enzymes regulates netrin-dependent guidance of D-type motor neurons in Caenorhabditis elegans.

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  • 1Institute of Molecular Life Sciences, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland ; Neuroscience Center Zurich, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.


Heparan sulfate proteoglycans (HSPGs) are proteins with long covalently attached sugar side chains of the heparan sulfate (HS) type. Depending on the cellular context HS chains carry multiple structural modifications such as sulfate residues or epimerized sugars allowing them to bind to a wide range of molecules. HSPGs have been found to play extremely diverse roles in animal development and were shown to interact with certain axon guidance molecules. In this study we describe the role of the Caenorhabditis elegans HSPG core proteins Syndecan (SDN-1) and Glypican (LON-2) and the HS modifying enzymes in the dorsal guidance of D-type motor axons, a process controlled mainly by the conserved axon guidance molecule UNC-6/Netrin. Our genetic analysis established the specific HS code relevant for this axon guidance event. Using two sensitized genetic backgrounds, we isolated novel components influencing D-type motor axon guidance with a link to HSPGs, as well as new alleles of several previously characterized axon guidance genes. Interestingly, the dorsal axon guidance defects induced by mutations in zfp-1 or lin-35 depended on the transgene oxIs12 used to visualize the D-type motor neurons. oxIs12 is a large multi-copy transgene that enlarges the X chromosome by approximately 20%. In a search for genes with a comparable phenotype we found that a mutation in the known dosage compensation gene dpy-21 showed similar axon guidance defects as zfp-1 or lin-35 mutants. Thus, derepression of genes on X, where many genes relevant for HS dependent axon guidance are located, might also influence axon guidance of D-type motor neurons.

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