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Neural Dev. 2008 Mar 17;3:7. doi: 10.1186/1749-8104-3-7.

Axonin-1/TAG-1 is required for pathfinding of granule cell axons in the developing cerebellum.

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Institute of Zoology, University of Zurich, Winterthurerstrasse, 8057 Zurich, Switzerland.



Neural development consists of a series of steps, including neurogenesis, patterning, cell migration, axon guidance, and finally, synaptogenesis. Because all these steps proceed in a constantly changing environment, functional gene analyses during development have to take time into account. This is quite challenging, however, as loss-of-function approaches based on classic genetic tools do not allow for the precise temporal control that is required for developmental studies. Gene silencing by RNA interference (RNAi) in combination with the chicken embryo or with cultured embryos opens new possibilities for functional gene analysis in vivo. Axonin-1/TAG-1 is a cell adhesion molecule of the immunoglobulin superfamily with a well defined temporal and spatial expression pattern in the developing vertebrate nervous system. Axonin-1/TAG-1 was shown to promote neurite outgrowth in vitro and to be required for commissural and sensory axon pathfinding in vivo.


To knock down axonin-1 in a temporally and spatially controlled manner during development of the nervous system, we have combined RNAi with the accessibility of the chicken embryo even at late stages of development. Using ex ovo RNAi, we analyzed the function of axonin-1/TAG-1 in cerebellar development. Axonin-1 is expressed in postmitotic granule cells while they extend their processes, the parallel fibers. In the absence of axonin-1 these processes still extend but no longer in a parallel manner to each other or to the pial surface of the cerebellum.


Axonin-1/TAG-1 is required for the navigation, but not for the elongation, of granule cell processes in the developing cerebellum in vivo.

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