Molecular Mechanisms Contributing To Axon Guidance Biology Essay


The ocular tract at present represents the best theoretical account to understand the molecular mechanisms lending to axon counsel. In recent old ages a great figure of interactions have been shown to play a function in this procedure.

This reappraisal will give a wide overview of the stairss involved in the development of the ocular tract, concentrating in peculiar on the Slit-Robo signalling system.


The ocular perceptual experience of the environing environment is transmitted from the oculus to the cardinal nervous system ( CNS ) through the retinal ganglion cells ( RGCs ) .

The right promotion of RGCs axons during development from the retina to the cardinal nervous system ( CNS ) involves the binding of receptors located in their plasma membranes with a assortment of counsel cues. These ligand-receptor interactions every bit good as the subsequent intracellular signalling are modified by the action of regulative cistrons and post-transcriptional mechanisms.

The ocular tract is at present the most helpful theoretical account in the research on axon counsel, due to its anatomical place, easy use and the changeless return of its projection 1.

The first portion of this reappraisal will give a general overview on the development of the ocular tract while the 2nd portion will concentrate on the function of Slit, a specific ligand involved in this procedure, and its receptor Robo.

The development of the ocular tract

During development RGCs differentiate within the retina before lengthen their axons radially towards the ocular nervus caput ( figure 1 ) 1. In making so, RGCs form the interior cellular bed of the retinal tissue, known as ocular fiber bed. After holding entered the ocular nervus, RGCs axons extend to construct the ocular decussation. At this point, in animate beings possessing stereovision, the temporal axons project ipsilaterally while the 1s bring forthing from the rhinal retina cross the midplane towards the contralateral portion of the interbrain or the mesencephalon. Both traversing and non-crossing axons continue their journey within the tractus opticus before making either the sidelong geniculate karyon ( LGN ) contained in the developing thalamus or other marks within the cardinal nervous system such as the superior colliculus ( SC ) .

Figure 1: conventional representation of the ocular tract in mammals 1. LGC: sidelong geniculate karyon, SC: superior colliculus, D: dorsal, L: sidelong, M: medial, N: nasal, T: temporal, V: ventral.

The extension of the retinal ganglion cells ‘ axons from the retina to their concluding mark within the CNS is regulated by a battalion of counsel hint. These molecules normally either attract or drive the axon. Some cues, nevertheless, have been shown to hold the ability to bring forth both reactions, depending on the developmental phase and place of the nervous fibers 2.

The distal appendage of the axon, known as growing cone, contains specific receptors which interact with the counsel cues which act as ligands. Following complex intracellular Cascadess the axon adjusts its way consequently. The first stages of the axon ‘s motions are produced by the extension or abjuration of the filopodia and lamellipodia nowadays on the top of the growing cone. The advancement of these extremely dynamic constructions incorporating F-actin packages is followed by the promotion of the full axon. The chief structural elements of the axonal shaft, on the other manus, are the microtubules ( figure 2 ) 1.

Figure 2 2: A: construction of the growing cones ( see text ) . B, C: the progress of the axon follows the motions of the filipodia and lamellipodia after interaction with repellant and attractant hints 1.

Different ligand ( hints ) -receptor mechanisms which are involved at different phases of the axon ‘s journey have been described in recent old ages. Under others, these include Ephrins/Ephs 3, Slits/Robos 4, netrin/Dcc/UNC5 5 and Semaphrins/Neuropilins/Plexins 6.

Sing the interaction between Ephs and Ephrins, the dissimilar concentration ‘s gradients of the latter along the ocular tract produces the precise function of the axons in the LGN and SC 7, 8.

Slits, on the other manus, adjust the way of the axons in the retina, forestalling their growing into other beds than the outer fiber bed ( OFL ) 9. In add-on, these hints besides inhibit the misdirection of axons at the degree of the decussation and of the ocular piece of land 10.

Furthermore, netrin-1 is expressed in the ocular phonograph record where it regulates the incursion of the axons from this construction into the ocular nervus 11.

Finally, Sema3D is produced in the midplane of the ventral interbrain, bring oning the projection of axons to the contralateral side at the degree of the decussation 12.

In add-on to the receptor-ligand signalling system, besides secreted factors such as Sonic porcupine, FGFs, Wnts and BMPs play an of import function in the axon counsel 1.

Wnt3, for illustration, is expressed in the tectum, lending to the function in this part of the CNS 13.

These are merely some illustrations of the hints ‘ function in the formation of the ocular tract.

The retinal development every bit good as the axonal patterned advance is regulated by the look of specific regulative cistrons and written text factors which frequently interact with receptors and counsel cues 1. These include Pax2, Vax1, Vax2 and FoxG1 which in mutation mice have been shown to indirectly take to deviant axonal flights 1, 14, 15.

Other go-betweens such as Zic2, Zic3, Brn3b have besides been reported to do a direct alteration in the axonal way 1, 16. Zic2, in peculiar, induces the RGCs in which it is expressed at the degree of the decussation to take an ipsilaterally way 17.

Finally, a mutant of SOHo, GH6, FoxD1 or FoxG1 in the chick retina alters the look of EphAs, ensuing in deviant axonal projections into the tectum 1, 18.

The look of both receptors and counsel hints is besides regulated by different types of post-transcriptional regulators. These include mechanisms which lead to changes in the receptor-ligand interactions ( i.e. heparan sulfate proteoglycans and stromal cell-derived factor-1 ) , alterations in the cytoplasmic concentration of 2nd couriers ( i.e. cyclic bases ) and alterations in the concentration of receptors, for illustration through endocytosis 1.

The Slit-Robo signalling system

Most of the times, the interaction between Slit ( ligand ) and Robo ( receptor ) causes a repulsive force of the growing cones 9, 10. While in the retina this signalling system prevents the growing of the RGCs axons outside the OFL, within the CNS, it avoids the deviant crossing of the nervous fibers across the midplane 9, 10.

After holding explained the structural elements which build this signalling system, I will briefly clarify the function of the Slit-Robo composite in the ocular tract formation.

While invertebrates possess merely one Slit, vertebrates express three different signifiers of this molecule ( Slit1-Slit3 ) . At the N-terminus, Slit consists of four leucine-rich repetition parts ( LRR ) , known as D1-D4. These are followed by a series of spheres as clearly pictured in figure 3 ( Drosophila ) : six cuticular growing factors ( EGF ) , one laminin G-like and a C-terminal cysteine knot sphere 19.

On the other manus, three types of Robos exist in Drosophila and four in craniates 19. The extracellular Robo is made of five immunoglobulin-like ( IG ) parts and three fibronectin type 3 ( FN3 ) domains. The intracellular section of this receptor consists of four good conserved spheres known as CC0-CC3 and a big series of variable parts ( figure 3 ) 19.

In both Drosophila and craniates, Slits D2 interacts with Robo IG1 in order to bring forth a signalling cascade ( figure 3 and 4 ) 20, 21. As shown in old surveies, canceling IG1 or IG2 prevents the interaction with Slit2 while IG3-IG5 and FN3 are non needed in the binding procedure 19.

Figure 3 19: conventional representation of the Slit-Robo composite in Drosophila.

Figure 4 19: Reconstruction of the Slit-Robo composite.

Heparan sulfate ( HS ) is indispensable in the Slit-Robo interaction 19. This ligand/receptor signalling was shown to be blocked in vitro every bit good as in vivo in theoretical accounts missing HS 22, 23.

It is still non wholly clear how the Slit-Robo complex leads to the intracellular cascade which consequences in a structural alteration of the cytoskeleton and in the subsequent change of the axon ‘s flight. It is presently believed that adapters bound at the intracellular section of Robo are modified after the Slit-Robo interaction following non yet wholly understood mechanisms. This would so ensue in a cytoplasmic signalling cascade 19. For illustration, following the binding of Slit to Robo, srGAP1 ( Slit-Robo Rho GTPase-activating protein 1 ) has been reported to unite with CC3, doing the obstruction of Cdc42 ( cell division rhythm 42 ) activity. The latter is a GTPase belonging to the Rho household 24 and its change could bring on one of the possible cascade tracts 19.

The Slit-Robo interaction is indispensable for an appropriate development of the ocular tract.

First of wholly, this signalling mechanism prevents the patterned advance of RGC axons into retinal beds other than the ocular fiber bed ( OFL ) . In vitro, Slit1 and Slit2 have been shown to barricade the axon ‘s branch 25. Similarly, in mice non showing Slit some RGC axons penetrate into deeper retinal beds 9. Slit1, nevertheless, in chick retina has besides been shown to pull RGC axons 26. This means that Slits can carry through attractive every bit good as repressive maps 1. On the other manus, after being released by the lens, Slit2 has merely been reported to direct the axons towards the ocular phonograph record through suppression of the growing cone 1.

Slit cues are besides released at the degree of the ocular decussation. Similarly to the retina, their chief function is to steer the RCG axons in the right formation of the decussation 25. More specifically, in Drosophila Slits inhibit the midplane ‘s crossing of those axons which are meant to project ipsilaterally while forestalling contralaterally directed fibres from traversing once more 27. Mutants in both Drosophila Robo and Slits lead to deviant midplane crossing of the RGC axons 27.

Finally, Slits molecules and Robo receptors are expressed along the ocular piece of land where they prevent the patterned advance of the nervous fibers into parts other than their mark structures 13.


The research analyzing the development of the ocular tract has given a cardinal part to the apprehension of the molecular mechanisms commanding axonal counsel. In add-on to the optic system, these biological stairss may assist us besides to clear up the growing of axons in other variety meats such as the cardinal and the peripheral nervous system.

Further surveies, nevertheless, are needed to uncover the complexness of the interactions and Cascadess happening during this formation ‘s procedure.