Molecular mechanisms of axon guidance

Science. 2002 Dec 6;298(5600):1959-64. doi: 10.1126/science.1072165.


Axons are guided along specific pathways by attractive and repulsive cues in the extracellular environment. Genetic and biochemical studies have led to the identification of highly conserved families of guidance molecules, including netrins, Slits, semaphorins, and ephrins. Guidance cues steer axons by regulating cytoskeletal dynamics in the growth cone through signaling pathways that are still only poorly understood. Elaborate regulatory mechanisms ensure that a given cue elicits the right response from the right axons at the right time but is otherwise ignored. With such regulatory mechanisms in place, a relatively small number of guidance factors can be used to generate intricate patterns of neuronal wiring.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / physiology*
  • Axons / ultrastructure
  • Cues
  • Cytoskeleton / physiology
  • Ephrins / physiology
  • Growth Cones / physiology*
  • Growth Cones / ultrastructure
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / physiology*
  • Morphogenesis
  • Nerve Growth Factors / physiology
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / physiology
  • Nucleotides, Cyclic / metabolism
  • Protein Biosynthesis
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / physiology
  • Semaphorins / physiology
  • Signal Transduction


  • Ephrins
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Nerve Growth Factors
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Nucleotides, Cyclic
  • Receptors, Cell Surface
  • Semaphorins