SAX-3 (Robo) and UNC-40 (DCC) regulate a directional bias for axon guidance in response to multiple extracellular cues

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Axons in Caenorhabditis elegans are guided by multiple extracellular cues, including UNC-6 (netrin), EGL-20 (wnt), UNC-52 (perlecan), and SLT-1 (slit). How multiple extracellular cues determine the direction of axon guidance is not well understood. We have proposed that an axon's response to guidance cues can be modeled as a random walk, i.e., a succession of randomly directed movement. Guidance cues dictate the probability of axon outgrowth activity occurring in each direction, which over time creates a directional bias. Here we provide further evidence for this model. We describe the effects that the UNC-40 (DCC) and SAX-3 (Robo) receptors and the UNC-6, EGL-20, UNC-52, and SLT-1 extracellular cues have on the directional bias of the axon outgrowth activity for the HSN and AVM neurons. We find that the directional bias created by the cues depend on UNC-40 or SAX-3. UNC-6 and EGL-20 affect the directional bias for both neurons, whereas UNC-52 and SLT-1 only affect the directional bias for HSN and AVM, respectively. The direction of the bias created by the loss of a cue can vary and the direction depends on the other cues. The random walk model predicts this combinatorial regulation. In a random walk a probability is assigned for each direction of outgrowth, thus creating a probability distribution. The probability distribution for each neuron is determined by the collective effect of all the cues. Since the sum of the probabilities must equal one, each cue affects the probability of outgrowth in multiple directions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere110031
JournalPloS one
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 15 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


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