B-type Eph receptors and ephrins induce growth cone collapse through distinct intracellular pathways

J Neurobiol. 2003 Dec;57(3):323-36. doi: 10.1002/neu.10303.


Forward and reverse signaling mediated by EphB tyrosine kinase receptors and their transmembrane ephrin-B ligands play important roles in axon pathfinding, yet little is known about the intracellular pathways involved. Here we have used growth cones from the ventral (EphB receptor-bearing) and dorsal (ephrin-B-bearing) embryonic Xenopus retina to investigate the signaling mechanisms in both forward and reverse directions. We report that unclustered, but not clustered, EphB2 ectodomains trigger fast (5-10 min) transient collapse responses in growth cones. This collapse response is mediated by low levels of intracellular cyclic GMP and requires proteasome function. In contrast, clustered, but not unclustered, ephrin-B1 ectodomains cause slow (30-60 min) growth cone collapse that depends on high cGMP levels and is insensitive to inhibition of the proteasomal pathway. Upon receptor-ligand binding, endocytosis occurs in the reverse direction (EphB2-Fc into dorsal retinal growth cones), but not the forward direction, and is also sensitive to proteasomal inhibition. Endocytosis is functionally important because blocking of EphB2 internalization inhibits growth cone collapse. Our data reveal that distinct signaling mechanisms exist for B-type Eph/ephrin-mediated growth cone guidance and suggest that endocytosis provides a fast mechanism for switching off signaling in the reverse direction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cysteine Endopeptidases / physiology
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian
  • Endocytosis / physiology*
  • Ephrins / physiology*
  • Growth Cones / physiology*
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Multienzyme Complexes / physiology
  • Organ Culture Techniques
  • Proteasome Endopeptidase Complex
  • Receptor, EphB1 / physiology*
  • Retina / physiology
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Visual Pathways / embryology*
  • Xenopus laevis


  • Ephrins
  • Multienzyme Complexes
  • Receptor, EphB1
  • Cysteine Endopeptidases
  • Proteasome Endopeptidase Complex