The extracellular molecule semaphorin 3A (Sema3A) is proposed to be a negative guidance cue that participates in patterning DRG sensory axons in the developing chick spinal cord. During development Sema3A is first expressed throughout the spinal cord gray matter, but Sema3A expression later disappears from the dorsal horn, where small-caliber cutaneous afferents terminate. Sema3A expression remains in the ventral horn, where large-muscle proprioceptive afferents terminate. It has been proposed that temporal changes in the sensitivity of different classes of sensory afferents to Sema3A contribute to the different pathfinding of these sensory afferents. This study compared the expression of the semaphorin 3A receptor subunit, neuropilin-1, and the collapse response of growth cones to semaphorin 3A for NGF (cutaneous)- and NT3 (proprioceptive)-dependent sensory axons extended from E6-E10 chick embryos. Growth cones extended from E6 DRGs in NT3-containing medium expressed neuropilin-1 and collapsed in response to Sema3A. From E7 until E10 NT3-responsive growth cones expressed progressively lower levels of neuropilin-1, and were less sensitive to Sema3A. On the other hand, growth cones extended from DRGs in NGF-containing medium expressed progressively higher levels of neuropilin-1 and higher levels of collapse response to Sema3A over the period from E6-E10. Thus, developmental patterning of sensory terminals in the chick spinal cord may arise from changes in both Sema3A expression in the developing spinal cord and accompanying changes in neuronal expression of the Sema3A receptor subunit, neuropilin-1.
Copyright 2002 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.