Growth cone motility and navigation in response to extracellular signals are regulated by actin dynamics. To better understand actin involvement in these processes we determined how and in what form actin reaches growth cones, and once there, how actin assembly is regulated. A continuous supply of actin is maintained at the axon tip by slow transport, the mobile component consisting of an unassembled form of actin. Actin is co-transported with actin-binding proteins, including ADF and cofilin, structurally related proteins essential for rapid turnover of actin filaments in vivo. ADF and cofilin activity is regulated through phosphorylation by LIM kinases, downstream effectors of the Rho family of GTPases, Cdc42, Rac and Rho. Attractive and repulsive extracellular guidance cues might locally alter actin dynamics by binding specific GTPase-linked receptors, activating LIM kinases, and subsequently modulating the activity of ADF/cofilin. ADF is enriched in growth cones and is required for neurite outgrowth. In addition, signals that influence growth cone behavior alter ADF/cofilin phosphorylation, and overexpression of ADF enhances neurite outgrowth. Growth promoting effects of laminin are mimicked by expression of constitutively active Cdc42 and blocked by expression of the dominant negative Cdc42. Repulsive effects of myelin and sema3D on growth cones are blocked by expression of constitutively active Rac1 and dominant negative Rac1, respectively. Thus a series of complex pathways must exist for regulating effectors of actin dynamics. The bifurcating nature of the ADF/cofilin phosphorylation pathway may provide the integration necessary for this complex regulation.
Copyright 2000 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.