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Neuron. 1994 Aug;13(2):405-14.

Polysialic acid regulates growth cone behavior during sorting of motor axons in the plexus region.

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  • 1Department of Physiology and Neurobiology, University of Connecticut Storrs 06269-3042.


Removal of polysialic acid (PSA) from N-CAM during the time when chick motoneuron axons are segregating into target-specific fascicles at the base of the limb was previously shown to result in motoneuron projection errors. Here, it is established that these errors are associated with altered growth cone behavior in the plexus. In contrast to control embryos, in which individual axons were observed to exhibit dramatic changes in direction and extensive divergence, axonal trajectories following the removal of PSA were relatively straight. To determine whether enhanced axon-axon fasciculation following PSA removal had prevented growth cones from responding appropriately to guidance cues at the base of the limb, we also examined the role of L1, a major mediator of axon-axon fasciculation in this system. Anti-L1 reversed the effects of PSA removal on both growth cone trajectories and projection errors. These results indicate that PSA plays a permissive role, attenuating axon-axon interactions in the plexus and thereby allowing the axonal reorganization that is essential for the formation of specific motoneuron projections.

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