Signaling at the growth cone: ligand-receptor complexes and the control of axon growth and guidance

Annu Rev Neurosci. 2003:26:509-63. doi: 10.1146/annurev.neuro.26.010302.081139. Epub 2003 Mar 28.


The guidance of axons during the establishment of the nervous system is mediated by a variety of extracellular cues that govern cytoskeletal dynamics in axonal growth cones. A large number of these guidance cues and their cell-surface receptors have now been identified, and the intracellular signaling pathways by which these cues induce cytoskeletal rearrangements are becoming defined. This review summarizes our current understanding of the major families of axon guidance cues and their receptors, with a particular emphasis on receptor signaling mechanisms. We also discuss recent advances in understanding receptor cross talk and how the activities of guidance cues and their receptors are modulated during neural development.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / physiology*
  • Drosophila Proteins*
  • Ephrins / metabolism
  • Growth / physiology*
  • Growth Cones / metabolism*
  • Growth Inhibitors / metabolism
  • Integrins / metabolism
  • Ligands*
  • Myelin Proteins / metabolism
  • Nerve Growth Factor / metabolism
  • Nerve Growth Factors / metabolism
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism
  • Protein Tyrosine Phosphatases / metabolism
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / metabolism*
  • Semaphorins / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • rho GTP-Binding Proteins / metabolism


  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Ephrins
  • Growth Inhibitors
  • Integrins
  • Ligands
  • Myelin Proteins
  • Nerve Growth Factors
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Receptors, Cell Surface
  • Semaphorins
  • sli protein, Drosophila
  • Nerve Growth Factor
  • Protein Tyrosine Phosphatases
  • rho GTP-Binding Proteins