A New Chemotaxis Assay Shows the Extreme Sensitivity of Axons to Molecular Gradients

Nat Neurosci. 2004 Jun;7(6):678-82. doi: 10.1038/nn1259. Epub 2004 May 25.


Axonal chemotaxis is believed to be important in wiring up the developing and regenerating nervous system, but little is known about how axons actually respond to molecular gradients. We report a new quantitative assay that allows the long-term response of axons to gradients of known and controllable shape to be examined in a three-dimensional gel. Using this assay, we show that axons may be nature's most-sensitive gradient detectors, but this sensitivity exists only within a narrow range of ligand concentrations. This assay should also be applicable to other biological processes that are controlled by molecular gradients, such as cell migration and morphogenesis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axonal Transport / physiology
  • Axons / physiology*
  • Chemotaxis / physiology*
  • Ganglia, Spinal / cytology
  • Ganglia, Spinal / physiology
  • Growth Cones / physiology
  • Rats