Abstract

Growth cones are specialized structures that form the distal tips of growing axons. During both normal development of the nervous system and regeneration of injured nerves, growth cones are essential for elongation and guidance of growing axons. Developmental and regenerative axon growth is frequently accompanied by elevated synthesis of a protein designated GAP-43. GAP-43 has now been found to be a major component of growth-cone membranes in developing rat brains. Relative to total protein, GAP-43 is approximately 12 times as abundant in growth-cone membranes as in synaptic membranes from adult brains. Immunohistochemical localization of GAP-43 in frozen sections of developing brain indicates that the protein is specifically associated with neuropil areas containing growth cones and immature synaptic terminals. The results support the proposal that GAP-43 plays a role in axon growth.