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Channels (Austin). 2013 Jan 1;7(1):51-6. doi: 10.4161/chan.23153. Epub 2012 Dec 13.

Cell-autonomous axon growth of young motoneurons is triggered by a voltage-gated sodium channel.

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Institute for Clinical Neurobiology, University of Würzburg, Würzburg, Germany.


Spontaneous electrical activity preceding synapse formation contributes to the precise regulation of neuronal development. Examining the origins of spontaneous activity revealed roles for neurotransmitters that depolarize neurons and activate ion channels. Recently, we identified a new molecular mechanism underlying fluctuations in spontaneous neuronal excitability. We found that embryonic motoneurons with a genetic loss of the low-threshold sodium channel NaV1.9 show fewer fluctuations in intracellular calcium in axonal compartments and growth cones than wild-type littermates. As a consequence, axon growth of NaV1.9-deficient motoneurons in cell culture is drastically reduced while dendritic growth and cell survival are not affected. Interestingly, NaV1.9 function is observed under conditions that would hardly allow a ligand- or neurotransmitter-dependent depolarization. Thus, NaV1.9 may serve as a cell-autonomous trigger for neuronal excitation. In this addendum, we discuss a model for the interplay between cell-autonomous local neuronal activity and local cytoskeleton dynamics in growth cone function.


NaV1.9; axon growth; local protein synthesis; motoneurons; sodium channel; spinal muscular atrophy; spontaneous excitation

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