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Curr Biol. 1996 Nov 1;6(11):1497-502.

Chromophore-assisted laser inactivation of a repulsive axonal guidance molecule.

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Max-Planck-Institut für Entwicklungsbiologie, Tübingen, Germany.



The axons of retinal ganglion neurons from a precise topographic map in the optic tectum in the midbrain, and the guidance of retinal axons by directional cues in the tectum is crucial in this process. Several in vitro systems have been developed in order to identify the molecular basis of these directional cues. Temporal, but not nasal, retinal axons avoid posterior tectal membranes and grow on anterior membranes as a result of repellent guidance activities that are linked by glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI) anchors to the posterior membranes. A putative GPI-anchored repulsive guidance molecule with a molecular weight of 33 kDa has previously been characterized. Indirect results from experiments in vitro support the hypothesis that this 33 kDa molecule guides temporal retinal axons.


To assess whether the 33 kDa protein is involved in axon guidance in vitro, we raised monoclonal antibodies against molecules that had been removed from tectal membranes by treatment with phosphatidylinositol-specific phospholipase C, which cleaves GPI anchors. A monoclonal immunoglobulin M, F3D4, recognized the 33 kDa molecule. In combination with chromophore-assisted laser inactivation, F3D4 caused a loss of the repellent activity from posterior tectal membranes in vitro. As a result, temporal retinal fibers were no longer repelled by posterior tectal membranes. This demonstrates that the F3D4 antigen, which we name RGM (repulsive guidance molecule) is involved in the guidance of retinal axons in an assay in vitro. In vivo, the expression of RGM increases from the anterior to the posterior pole of the optic tectum.


These findings not only support the hypothesis that retinal axons are guided by gradients of repulsive guidance molecules but, in combination with earlier studies of receptor kinases and their ligands that act during guidance, argue for the presence of several repellent guidance molecules with similar functions in vitro and expression patterns in vivo.

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