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Annu Rev Neurosci. 1995;18:497-529.

The role of the floor plate in axon guidance.

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  • 1Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Department of Anatomy, University of California, San Francisco 94143-0452, USA.


The data reviewed above have implicated the floor plate in directing axonal growth towards the midline, in directing the behavior of axons at the midline, and finally, in directing the longitudinal growth of axons alongside the midline. In the case of growth to the midline, there is clear evidence for the existence of two types of cues that collaborate to direct growth--short-range cues that can direct axons along the edge of the spinal cord and a long-range chemoattractant secreted by the floor plate cells whose main function may be to direct later-extending commissural axons that must migrate through the complex environment of the developing motor column. Determining the precise contribution of these cues will require identifying them and perturbing them in vivo. The cues that direct growth along the edge are unknown; their identification in the spinal cord would be of quite general significance, since the growth of axons parallel to (but not in contact with) the pial surface is a widespread feature of early axon growth at all axial levels of the neural tube. A strong candidate for the long-range chemoattractant is netrin-1, a homologue of the UNC-6 protein of C. elegans and a distant relative of laminin, which is expressed by floor plate cells and which can both promote and orient commissural axon outgrowth. Netrin-1 may also influence growth of other populations of neurons that exhibit stereotyped behaviors near the ventral midline. Much less is known about the exact role of the floor plate in directing axon growth at the midline, though it is clearly required for accurate guidance. In the absence of the floor plate, a range of errors has been found, the most prominent of which are aberrant midline crossings and errors in longitudinal growth near the ventral midline. The severity of these errors varies with species, which could result from either the variable importance of the floor plate in the different species or the fact that, so far, quite different manipulations of the ventral midline region have been performed in different species. The most specific perturbation of the ventral midline occurs in the zebrafish cyc-1 mutant, where the selective loss of the floor plate leads to stereotyped misrouting events. Perhaps surprisingly, virtually all axons that grow to the midline turn longitudinally (although sometimes in the wrong direction).(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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