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J Neurobiol. 1998 Dec;37(4):541-62.

Response of retinal ganglion cell axons to striped linear gradients of repellent guidance molecules.

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Abteilung für Physikalische Biologie, Max-Planck-Institut für Entwicklungsbiologie, Tübingen, Germany.


Although molecular gradients have long been postulated to play a role in the development of topographic projections in the nervous system, relatively little is known about how axons evaluate gradients. Do growth cones respond to concentration or to slope? Do they react suddenly or gradually? Is there adaptation? In the developing retinotectal system, temporal retinal ganglion cell axons have previously been shown to avoid repellent cell-surface activities distributed in gradients across the optic tectum. We confronted temporal retinal axons with precisely formed striped linear gradients of repellent tectal membranes and of two candidate repellent molecules, ephrin-A2 and -A5. Axons entered gradient stripes independently of their slope and extended unhindered in the uphill direction until they suddenly avoided an apparent threshold concentration of repellent material that was independent of slope. This critical concentration was similar in both linear and nonlinear gradients, and hence independent of gradient shape. When gradients of identical slope were formed on different basal levels of repellent material, axons grew uphill for a fixed increment of concentration, possibly measured from the lowest point of the gradient, rather than up to a fixed absolute concentration. The speed of growth cones was not affected by repellent unstriped gradients below the critical concentration level. Similar results were found with membranes from cell lines stably transfected with either ephrin-A5 or ephrin-A2, two previously identified growth cone repellent cell-surface proteins. These data suggest that growth cones or axons can integrate guidance information over large distances, probably by a combined memory and adaptation mechanism.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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