Growth cones are highly motile structures at the end of neuronal processes, capable of receiving multiple types of guidance cues and transducing them into directed axonal growth. Thus, to guide the axon toward the appropriate target cell, the growth cone carries out different functions: it acts as a sensor, signal transducer, and motility device. An increasing number of molecular components that mediate axon guidance have been characterized over the past years. The vast majority of these molecules include proteins that act as guidance cues and their respective receptors. In addition, more and more signaling and cytoskeleton-associated proteins have been localized to the growth cone. Furthermore, it has become evident that growth cone motility and guidance depends on a dynamic cytoskeleton that is regulated by incoming guidance information. Current and future research in the growth cone field will be focussed on how different guidance cues transmit their signals to the cytoskeleton and change its dynamic properties to affect the rate and direction of growth cone movement. In this review, we discuss recent evidence that cell adhesion molecules can regulate growth cone motility and guidance by a mechanism of substrate-cytoskeletal coupling.
Copyright 2000 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.