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Development. 2008 Nov;135(22):3643-53. doi: 10.1242/dev.023325. Epub 2008 Oct 8.

Pioneer longitudinal axons navigate using floor plate and Slit/Robo signals.

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  • 1Department of Biology, University of Nevada, Reno, NV 89557, USA.


Longitudinal axons transmit all signals between the brain and spinal cord. Their axon tracts through the brain stem are established by a simple set of pioneer axons with precise trajectories parallel to the floor plate. To identify longitudinal guidance mechanisms in vivo, the overall role of floor plate tissue and the specific roles of Slit/Robo signals were tested. Ectopic induction or genetic deletion of the floor plate diverted longitudinal axons into abnormal trajectories. The expression patterns of the diffusible cues of the Slit family were altered in the floor plate experiments, suggesting their involvement in longitudinal guidance. Genetic tests of Slit1 and Slit2, and the Slit receptors Robo1 and Robo2 were carried out in mutant mice. Slit1;Slit2 double mutants had severe longitudinal errors, particularly for ventral axons, including midline crossing and wandering longitudinal trajectories. Robo1 and Robo2 were largely genetically redundant, and neither appeared to specify specific tract positions. However, combined Robo1 and Robo2 mutations strongly disrupted each pioneer tract. Thus, pioneer axons depend on long-range floor plate cues, with Slit/Robo signaling required for precise longitudinal trajectories.

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