Delineating neurotrophin-3 dependent signaling pathways underlying sympathetic axon growth along intermediate targets

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Abstract

Postganglionic sympathetic neurons detect vascular derived neurotrophin 3 (NT3) via the axonally expressed receptor tyrosine kinase, TrkA, to promote chemo-attraction along intermediate targets. Once axons arrive to their final target, a structurally related neurotrophic factor, nerve growth factor (NGF), also acts through TrkA to promote final target innervation. Does TrkA signal differently at these different locales? We previously found that Coronin-1 is upregulated in sympathetic neurons upon exposure to NGF, thereby endowing the NGF-TrkA complex with new signaling capabilities (i.e. calcium signaling), which dampens axon growth and branching. Based on the notion that axons do not express functional levels of Coronin-1 prior to final target innervation, we developed an in vitro model for axon growth and branching along intermediate targets using Coro1a−/− neurons grown in NT3. We found that, similar to NGF-TrkA, NT3-TrkA is capable of inducing MAPK and PI3K in the presence or absence of Coronin-1. However, unlike NGF, NT3 does not induce calcium release from intracellular stores. Using a combination of pharmacology, knockout neurons and in vitro functional assays, we suggest that the NT3-TrkA complex uses Ras/MAPK and/or PI3K-AKT signaling to induce axon growth and inhibit axon branching along intermediate targets. However, in the presence of Coronin-1, these signaling pathways lose their ability to impact NT3 dependent axon growth or branching. This is consistent with a role for Coronin-1 as a molecular switch for axon behavior and suggests that Coronin-1 suppresses NT3 dependent axon behavior.

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