Turning of nerve growth cones induced by localized increases in intracellular calcium ions

Nature. 2000 Jan 6;403(6765):89-93. doi: 10.1038/47501.


Guidance of developing axons involves turning of the motile tip, the growth cone, in response to a variety of extracellular cues. Little is known about the intracellular mechanism by which the directional signal is transduced. Ca2+ is a key second messenger in growth cone extension and has been implicated in growth-cone turning. Here I report that a direct, spatially restricted elevation of intracellular Ca2+ concentration ([Ca2+]i) on one side of the growth cone by focal laser-induced photolysis (FLIP) of caged Ca2+ consistently induced turning of the growth cone to the side with elevated [Ca2+]i (attraction). Furthermore, when the resting [Ca2+]i at the growth cone was decreased by the removal of extracellular Ca2+, the same focal elevation of [Ca2+]i by FLIP induced repulsion. These results provide direct evidence that a localized Ca2+ signal in the growth cone can provide the intracellular directional cue for extension and is sufficient to initiate both attraction and repulsion. By integrating local and global Ca2+ signals, a growth cone could thus generate different turning responses under different environmental conditions during guidance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / physiology
  • Calcium / physiology*
  • Calcium Signaling*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chemotaxis / physiology*
  • Fluorescence
  • Growth Cones / physiology*
  • Photolysis
  • Xenopus


  • Calcium