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J Neurosci. 2005 Apr 6;25(14):3628-37.

Plexin-a4 mediates axon-repulsive activities of both secreted and transmembrane semaphorins and plays roles in nerve fiber guidance.

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Division of Developmental Genetics, National Institute of Genetics, Mishima 411-8540, Japan.


It has been proposed that four members of the plexin A subfamily (plexin-As; plexin-A1, -A2, -A3, and -A4) and two neuropilins (neuropilin-1 and neuropilin-2) form complexes and serve as receptors for class 3 secreted semaphorins (Semas), potent neural chemorepellents. The roles of given plexin-As in semaphorin signaling and axon guidance, however, are mostly unknown. Here, to elucidate functions of plexin-A4 in semaphorin signaling and axon guidance events in vivo, we generated plexin-A4 null mutant mice by targeted disruption of the plexin-A4 gene. Plexin-A4 mutant mice were defective in the trajectory and projection of peripheral sensory axons and sympathetic ganglion (SG) axons and the formation of the anterior commissure and the barrels. The defects in peripheral sensory and SG axons were fundamentally related to those of neuropilin-1 or Sema3A mutant embryos reported but were more moderate than the phenotype in these mutants. The growth cone collapse assay showed that dorsal root ganglion axons and SG axons of plexin-A4 mutant embryos partially lost their responsiveness to Sema3A. These results suggest that plexin-A4 plays roles in the propagation of Sema3A activities and regulation of axon guidance and that other members of the plexin-A subfamily are also involved in the propagation of Sema3A activities. Plexin-A4-deficient SG axons did not lose their responsiveness to Sema3F, suggesting that plexin-A4 serves as a Sema3A-specific receptor, at least in SG axons. In addition, the present study showed that plexin-A4 bound class 6 transmembrane semaphorins, Sema6A and Sema6B, and mediated their axon-repulsive activities, independently of neuropilin-1. Our results imply that plexin-A4 mediates multiple semaphorin signals and regulates axon guidance in vivo.

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