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J Neurobiol. 2000 Jun 15;43(4):352-64.

Cdc42 stimulates neurite outgrowth and formation of growth cone filopodia and lamellipodia.

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  • 1Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado 80523-1670, USA.


To assess the role of cdc42 during neurite development, cmyc-tagged constitutively active (CA) and dominant negative (DN) cdc42 were expressed in dissociated primary chick spinal cord neurons using adenoviral-mediated gene transfer. Three days after infection, >85% of the neurons in infected cultures expressed cdc42 proteins, as detected by indirect immunofluorescence against cmyc. Growth cones of infected neurons displayed 1.83- (CAcdc42) and 1.93-fold (DNcdc42) higher cmyc immunofluorescence per square micrometer than uninfected controls. CAcdc42 expression stimulated growth cones, almost doubling growth cone size and number of filopodia, and increased neurite growth rates by 65-89%. In neurons plated onto fibronectin, the percent of growth cones with both filopodia and lamellipodia increased from 71 to 92%. Total Texas Red-phalloidin staining in these growth cones doubled, and the percent of growth cones with F-actin localized to peripheral regions increased from 52% in controls to 78% after CAcdc42 expression. Expression of DNcdc42 did not significantly alter growth cone morphology or neurite growth rates. Addition of soluble laminin to spinal cord neurons resulted in the identical phenotype as CAcdc42 expression, including changes in growth cone morphology, F-actin localization, and neurite growth rates. Significantly, expression of DNcdc42 blocked the effects of laminin on growth cones. These results show that cdc42 promotes neurite outgrowth and filopodial and lamellipodial formation in growth cones and suggests that cdc42 and laminin share a common signaling pathway during neurite development. Addition of laminin to CAcdc42-expressing neurons is inhibitory to growth cones, indicating that laminin also may activate some other pathways.

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