Netrins are laminin-related proteins that guide circumferential migrations an the ectoderm. To understand how netrin cues direct cell movements, we examined the expression of nematode netrin UNC-6 from embryo to adult. UNC-6 is expressed in 12 types of neuroglia and neurons, creating a hierarchy of netrin cues in the developing nervous system. Comparing gene expression pattern with in viva phenotypes, we suggest how multiple netrin cues, each with a characteristic role, guide cells and axons during development. We also present the molecular analysis of selective loss-of-function and null alleles. The results indicate that the biological activities of netrins are mediated through distinct protein domains. Subtle mutations in domain VI can produce selective defects in both direction- and tissue-specific guidance. EGF-like module V-2 is essential for dorsal guidance activity; we infer this module is important for interactions between UNC-6 and the dorsal guidance receptor UNC-5.
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