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J Neurobiol. 2004 Jan;58(1):70-83.

Microtubules and growth cone function.

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MRC Centre for Developmental Neurobiology, King's College London, London SE1 1UL, England.


It has been recognized for a long time that the neuronal cytoskeleton plays an important part in neurite growth and growth cone pathfinding, the mechanism by which growing axons find an appropriate route through the developing embryo to their target cells. In the growth cone, many intracellular signaling pathways that are activated by guidance cues converge on the growth cone cytoskeleton and regulate its dynamics. Most of the research effort in this area has focussed on the actin, microfilament cytoskeleton of the growth cone, principally because it underlies growth cone motility, the extension and retraction of filopodia and lamellipodia, and these structures are the first to encounter guidance cues during growth cone advance. However, more recently, it has become apparent that the microtubule cytoskeleton also has a role in growth cone pathfinding and is also regulated by guidance cues operating through intracellular signaling pathways via engagement with cell membrane receptors. Furthermore, recent work has revealed an interaction between these two components of the growth cone cytoskeleton that is probably essential for growth cone turning, a fundamental growth cone behavior during pathfinding. In this short review I discuss recent experiments that uncover the function of microtubules in growth cones, how their behavior is regulated, and how they interact with the actin filaments.

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