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Science 291 (5510): 1928-1938

Copyright © 2001 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Hierarchical Organization of Guidance Receptors: Silencing of Netrin Attraction by Slit Through a Robo/DCC Receptor Complex

Elke Stein, Marc Tessier-Lavigne*

Axonal growth cones that cross the nervous system midline change their responsiveness to midline guidance cues: They become repelled by the repellent Slit and simultaneously lose responsiveness to the attractant netrin. These mutually reinforcing changes help to expel growth cones from the midline by making a once-attractive environment appear repulsive. Here, we provide evidence that these two changes are causally linked: In the growth cones of embryonic Xenopus spinal axons, activation of the Slit receptor Roundabout (Robo) silences the attractive effect of netrin-1, but not its growth-stimulatory effect, through direct binding of the cytoplasmic domain of Robo to that of the netrin receptor DCC. Biologically, this hierarchical silencing mechanism helps to prevent a tug-of-war between attractive and repulsive signals in the growth cone that might cause confusion. Molecularly, silencing is enabled by a modular and interlocking design of the cytoplasmic domains of these potentially antagonistic receptors that predetermines the outcome of their simultaneous activation.

Department of Anatomy and Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94143, USA.
*   To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: marctl{at}

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Extracellular Signals That Regulate the Tangential Migration of Olfactory Bulb Neuronal Precursors: Inducers, Inhibitors, and Repellents.
H. A. Mason, S. Ito, and G. Corfas (2001)
J. Neurosci. 21, 7654-7663
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