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Dev Biol. 2011 May 1;353(1):134-46. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2011.02.006. Epub 2011 Feb 17.

Conserved and novel functions for Netrin in the formation of the axonal scaffold and glial sheath cells in spiders.

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School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, Queen Mary University of London, Mile End Road, Fogg Building, London E14NS, UK.


Netrins are well known for their function as long-range chemotropic guidance cues, in particular in the ventral midline of vertebrates and invertebrates. Over the past years, publications are accumulating that support an additional short-range function for Netrins in diverse developmental processes such as axonal pathfinding and cell adhesion. We describe here the formation of the axonal scaffold in the spiders Cupiennius salei and Achaearanea tepidariorum and show that axonal tract formation seems to follow the same sequence as in insects and crustaceans in both species. First, segmental neuropiles are established which then become connected by the longitudinal fascicles. Interestingly, the commissures are established at the same time as the longitudinal tracts despite the large gap between the corresponding hemi-neuromeres which results from the lateral movement of the germband halves during spider embryogenesis. We show that Netrin has a conserved function in the ventral midline in commissural axon guidance. This function is retained by an adaptation of the expression pattern to the specific morphology of the spider embryo. Furthermore, we demonstrate a novel function of netrin in the formation of glial sheath cells that has an impact on neural precursor differentiation. Loss of Netrin function leads to the absence of glial sheath cells which in turn results in premature segregation of neural precursors and overexpression of the early motor- and interneuronal marker islet. We suggest that Netrin is required in the differentiated sheath cells for establishing and maintaining the interaction between NPGs and sheath cells. This short-range adhesive interaction ensures that the neural precursors maintain their epithelial character and remain attached to the NPGs. Both the conserved and novel functions of Netrin seem to be required for the proper formation of the axonal scaffold.

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