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Nat Neurosci. 2006 Apr;9(4):511-8. Epub 2006 Mar 5.

UNC-6/Netrin induces neuronal asymmetry and defines the site of axon formation.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Laboratory of Neural Circuits and Behavior, Rockefeller University, 1230 York Avenue, New York, New York 10021, USA.


UNC-6/Netrin and its receptor UNC-40/DCC are conserved regulators of growth cone guidance. By directly observing developing neurons in vivo, we show that UNC-6 and UNC-40 also function during axon formation to initiate, maintain and orient asymmetric neuronal growth. The immature HSN neuron of Caenorhabditis elegans breaks spherical symmetry to extend a leading edge toward ventral UNC-6. In unc-6 and unc-40 mutants, leading edge formation fails, the cell remains symmetrical until late in development and the axon that eventually forms is misguided. Thus netrin has two activities: one that breaks neuronal symmetry and one that guides the future axon. As the axon forms, UNC-6, UNC-40 and the lipid modulators AGE-1/phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) and DAF-18/PTEN drive the actin-regulatory pleckstrin homology (PH) domain protein MIG-10/lamellipodin ventrally in HSN to promote asymmetric growth. The coupling of a directional netrin cue to sustained asymmetric growth via PI3K signaling is reminiscent of polarization in chemotaxing cells.

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