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Dev Neurobiol. 2012 Dec;72(12):1498-515. doi: 10.1002/dneu.22011. Epub 2012 Jul 27.

C. elegans dystroglycan coordinates responsiveness of follower axons to dorsal/ventral and anterior/posterior guidance cues.

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Department of Cell and Molecular Biology, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois 60611, USA.


Neural development in metazoans is characterized by the establishment of initial process tracts by pioneer axons and the subsequent extension of follower axons along these pioneer processes. Mechanisms governing the fidelity of follower extension along pioneered routes are largely unknown. In C. elegans, formation of the right angle-shaped lumbar commissure connecting the lumbar and preanal ganglia is an example of pioneer/follower dynamics. We find that the dystroglycan ortholog DGN-1 mediates the fidelity of follower lumbar commissure axon extension along the pioneer axon route. In dgn-1 mutants, the axon of the pioneer PVQ neuron faithfully establishes the lumbar commissure, but axons of follower lumbar neurons, such as PVC, frequently bypass the lumbar commissure and extend along an oblique trajectory directly toward the preanal ganglion. In contrast, disruption of the UNC-6/netrin guidance pathway principally perturbs PVQ ventral guidance to pioneer the lumbar commissure. Loss of DGN-1 in unc-6 mutants has a quantitatively similar effect on follower axon guidance regardless of PVQ axon route, indicating that DGN-1 does not mediate follower/pioneer adhesion. Instead, DGN-1 appears to block premature responsiveness of follower axons to a preanal ganglion-directed guidance cue, which mediates ventral-to-anterior reorientation of lumbar commissure axons. Deletion analysis shows that only the most N-terminal DGN-1 domain is required for these activities. These studies suggest that dystroglycan modulation of growth cone responsiveness to conflicting guidance cues is important for restricting follower axon extension to the tracts laid down by pioneers.

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