Research NewsDevelopmental Neurobiology

New Neurons Use “Lookouts” to Navigate Nervous System

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Science  29 Mar 1996:
Vol. 271, Issue 5257, pp. 1807
DOI: 10.1126/science.271.5257.1807


Like a ship journeying toward a strange harbor, a growing motor neuron heading into the peripheral nervous system faces a major navigational challenge. In a series of recent studies of fruit fly embryos, researchers have identified a handful of lookouts on deck—proteins that straddle the cell membrane—that help guide the neuron, signaling it to swerve away from the main nerve channel and toward a target muscle. Once there, according to a report in this issue (p. 1867), a newly discovered protein called Late Bloomer helps to signal “all stop.” And studies of the rat have identified several proteins that then serve as dockworkers, tugging molecular gangplanks and cranes into place to off-load the neurochemical cargo and form a synapse. Eventually, researchers say, the lookouts may help neuroscientists chart a far more intricate journey: one leading to an understanding of how connections form in the brain itself.