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J Neurosci. 2004 Feb 4;24(5):1070-8.

Ephrin-A5 exerts positive or inhibitory effects on distinct subsets of EphA4-positive motor neurons.

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Division of Biological Sciences, University of Missouri-Columbia, Columbia, Missouri 65211, USA.


Eph receptor tyrosine kinases and ephrins are required for axon patterning and plasticity in the developing nervous system. Typically, Eph-ephrin interactions promote inhibitory events; for example, prohibiting the entry of neural cells into certain embryonic territories. Here, we show that distinct subsets of motor neurons that express EphA4 respond differently to ephrin-A5. EphA4-positive LMC(l) axons avoid entering ephrin-A5-positive hindlimb mesoderm. In contrast, EphA4-positive MMC(m) axons extend through ephrin-A5-positive rostral half-sclerotome. Blocking EphA4 activation in MMC(m) neurons or expanding the domain of ephrin-A5 expression in the somite results in the aberrant growth of MMC(m) axons into the caudal half-sclerotome. Moreover, premature expression of EphA4 in MMC(m) neurons leads to a portion of their axons growing into novel ephrin-A5-positive territories. Together, these results indicate that EphA4-ephrin-A5 signaling acts in a positive manner to constrain MMC(m) axons to the rostral half-sclerotome. Furthermore, we show that Eph activation localizes to distinct subcellular compartments of LMC(l) and MMC(m) neurons, consistent with distinct EphA4 signaling cascades in these neuronal subpopulations.

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