Editors' ChoiceNeuroscience

Sensing the Right Path

Science's STKE  19 Apr 2005:
Vol. 2005, Issue 280, pp. tw148
DOI: 10.1126/stke.2802005tw148

During nervous system development, axonal growth cones find their way to their targets with the help of various chemoattractant and chemorepellant cues. Several neurite guidance signals modulate calcium influx into the growth cone, but the underlying mechanisms and the specific channels involved have been unclear (see Gomez). Now two groups, Li et al. and Wang and Poo, provide evidence implicating transient receptor potential canonical (TRPC) channels--a family of channels known for mediating sensory responses--in the response to the chemoattractants brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and netrin-1. Wang and Poo performed perforated whole-cell patch clamp analysis of cultured Xenopus spinal neurons and found that netrin-1 elicited membrane depolarization that was inhibited by an antibody to its receptor, DDC. Netrin-induced current present during pharmacological blockade of most voltage-dependent ion channels was inhibited by SKF-96365, which blocks TRP channels, as was a similar current produced by BDNF. Further, growth cone turning in response to netrin-1 or BDNF was abolished by SKF-96365. Injection of morpholino oligonucleotides (MOs) that knocked down xTRPC1 expression inhibited the putative TRP currents and abolished growth cone turning in response to a netrin-1 gradient. Moreover, MO or SKF-96365 abolished the netrin-induced increase in growth cone calcium concentration.

Li et al. investigated TRPC channels in BDNF-mediated guidance of cultured cerebellar granule cells, which was blocked by antibodies to the TrkB receptor, incubation with a membrane-permeable calcium chelator, or pharmacological depletion of intracellular calcium stores. Although pharmacological blockade of several voltage-sensitive sodium and calcium channels had no effect on growth cone turning elicited by BDNF, turning was abolished by SKF-96365, as well as by pharmacological inhibition of phospholipase C (PLC), phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K), or blockade of the inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate receptor (IP3R). In contrast, a PLC activator elicited turning, an effect that depended on extracellular calcium and was abolished by SKF-96365. BDNF increased growth cone calcium concentration, an effect that depended on both calcium influx and release from internal stores and that was reduced by SKF-96365, pharmacological inhibition of PLC, or IP3R blockade. BDNF-induced turning was abolished by siRNA directed against TRPC3 or by overexpression of dominant-negative mutant forms of TRPC3 or TRPC6. Thus, activation of TRPC channels appears to play a key role in calcium-dependent neurite pathfinding in response to both netrin-1 and BDNF.

Y. Li, Y.-C. Jia, K. Cui, N. Li, Z.-Y. Zheng, Y.-Z. Wang, X.-B. Yuan, Essential role of TRPC channels in the guidance of nerve growth cones by brain-derived neurotrophic factor. Nature 434, 894-898 (2005). [PubMed]

G. X. Wang, M.-M. Poo, Requirement of TRPC channels in netrin-1-induced chemotropic turning of nerve growth cones. Nature 434, 898-904 (2005). [PubMed]

T. Gomez, Channels for pathfinding. Nature 434, 835-838 (2005). [PubMed]