Articles

Neuronal cytomechanics: the actin-based motility of growth cones

Science  04 Nov 1988:
Vol. 242, Issue 4879, pp. 708-715
DOI: 10.1126/science.3055292

Abstract

The patterns of synaptic connection that underlie brain function depend on the elaborate forms characteristic of neurons. It is therefore a central goal of neuroscience to understand the molecular basis for neuronal shape. Neuronal pathfinding during development is one major determinant of neuronal shape: growing nerve axons and dendrites must navigate, branch, and locate targets in response to extracellular cue molecules within the embryo. The leading tips of growing nerve processes, structures known as growth cones, contain especially high concentrations of the ubiquitous mechanochemical protein actin. Force generation involving this cytoskeletal molecule appears to be essential to the ability of growing nerve fibers to respond structurally to extracellular cues. New results from electronically enhanced light microscopy of living growth cones are helping to show how actin-based forces guide neurite growth and synapse formation.

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