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Neuron. 2002 Sep 12;35(6):1043-56.

WNT-3, expressed by motoneurons, regulates terminal arborization of neurotrophin-3-responsive spinal sensory neurons.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, London SW7 AY, United Kingdom.


Sensory axons from dorsal root ganglia neurons are guided to spinal targets by molecules differentially expressed along the dorso-ventral axis of the neural tube. NT-3-responsive muscle afferents project ventrally, cease extending, and branch upon contact with motoneurons (MNs), their synaptic partners. We have identified WNT-3 as a candidate molecule that regulates this process. Wnt-3 is expressed by MNs of the lateral motor column at the time when MNs form synapses with sensory neurons. WNT-3 increases branching and growth cone size while inhibiting axonal extension in NT-3- but not NGF-responsive axons. Ventral spinal cord secretes factors with axonal remodeling activity for NT-3-responsive neurons. This activity is present at limb levels and is blocked by a WNT antagonist. We propose that WNT-3, expressed by MNs, acts as a retrograde signal that controls terminal arborization of muscle afferents.

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