Developing axons are guided to their targets by attractive and repulsive guidance cues. In the embryonic spinal cord, the floor plate chemoattractant Netrin-1 is required to guide commissural neuron axons to the midline. However, genetic evidence suggests that other chemoattractant(s) are also involved. We show that the morphogen Sonic hedgehog (Shh) can mimic the additional chemoattractant activity of the floor plate in vitro and can act directly as a chemoattractant on isolated axons. Cyclopamine-mediated inhibition of the Shh signaling mediator Smoothened (Smo) or conditional inactivation of Smo in commissural neurons indicate that Smo activity is important for the additional chemoattractant activity of the floor plate in vitro and for the normal projection of commissural axons to the floor plate in vivo. These results provide evidence that Shh, acting via Smo, is a midline-derived chemoattractant for commissural axons and show that a morphogen can also act as an axonal chemoattractant.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)