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Sci Rep. 2012;2:675. Epub 2012 Sep 20.

Less than 5 Netrin-1 molecules initiate attraction but 200 Sema3A molecules are necessary for repulsion.

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Istituto Officina dei Materiali (IOM-CNR), Area Science Park, Trieste, Italy.


Guidance molecules, such as Sema3A or Netrin-1, induce growth cone (GC) repulsion or attraction. In order to determine the speed of action and efficiency of these guidance cues we developed an experimental procedure to deliver controlled amounts of these molecules. Lipid vesicles encapsulating 10-10(4) molecules of Sema3A or Netrin-1 were manipulated with high spatial and temporal resolution by optical tweezers and their photolysis triggered by laser pulses. Guidance molecules released from the vesicles diffused and reached the GC membrane in a few seconds. Following their arrival, GCs retracted or grew in 20-120 s. By determining the number of guidance molecules trapped inside vesicles and estimating the fraction of guidance molecules reaching the GC, we show that the arrival of less than 5 Netrin-1 molecules on the GC membrane is sufficient to induce growth. In contrast, the arrival of about 200 Sema3A molecules is necessary to induce filopodia repulsion.

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