Rac proteins and the control of axon development

Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2003 Jun;13(3):384-90. doi: 10.1016/s0959-4388(03)00071-0.


Rac GTPases and their effectors control cellular morphogenesis in a wide range of developmental contexts by regulating the structure and dynamics of the actin cytoskeleton. Although much is known about the biochemistry of Racs and Rac regulators, less is known about how Racs control cellular morphogenesis, including axon development, in vivo. Recent loss-of-function genetic studies using model organisms have shown that Racs and their effectors are required for multiple aspects of axon development, including axon outgrowth, axon guidance and axon branching. Interestingly, these studies have also revealed that Rac activity is required to prune spurious axons and branches. Analyses of Racs and their upstream and downstream effectors suggest that Rac signaling is complex. Different neurons utilize distinct combinations of upstream Rac regulators during axon development, possibly reflecting responses to different axon path-finding signals, and Racs use distinct downstream effectors to mediate different aspects of axon development, possibly reflecting differential regulation of the lamellipodial and filopodial growth-cone actin-cytoskeleton domains underlying axon developmental events.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • rac GTP-Binding Proteins / physiology*


  • rac GTP-Binding Proteins