Cdc42 participates in the regulation of ADF/cofilin and retinal growth cone filopodia by brain derived neurotrophic factor

J Neurobiol. 2006 Feb 5;66(2):103-14. doi: 10.1002/neu.20204.


Rho family GTPases have important roles in mediating the effects of guidance cues and growth factors on the motility of neuronal growth cones. We previously showed that the neurotrophin BDNF regulates filopodial dynamics on growth cones of retinal ganglion cell axons through activation of the actin regulatory proteins ADF and cofilin by inhibiting a RhoA-dependent pathway that phosphorylates (inactivates) ADF/cofilin. The GTPase Cdc42 has also been implicated in mediating the effects of positive guidance cues. In this article we investigated whether Cdc42 is involved in the effects of BDNF on filopodial dynamics. BDNF treatment increases Cdc42 activity in retinal neurons, and neuronal incorporation of constitutively active Cdc42 mimics the increases in filopodial number and length. Furthermore, constitutively active and dominant negative Cdc42 decreased and increased, respectively, the activity of RhoA in retinal growth cones, indicating crosstalk between these GTPases in retinal growth cones. Constitutively active Cdc42 mimicked the activation of ADF/cofilin that resulted from BDNF treatment, while dominant negative Cdc42 blocked the effects of BDNF on filopodia and ADF/cofilin. The inability of dominant negative Cdc42 to block ADF/cofilin activation and stimulation of filopodial dynamics by the ROCK inhibitor Y-27632 indicate interaction between Cdc42 and RhoA occurs upstream of ROCK. Our results demonstrate crosstalk occurs between GTPases in mediating the effects of BDNF on growth cone motility, and Cdc42 activity can promote actin dynamics via activation of ADF/cofilin.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Actin Depolymerizing Factors / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / metabolism*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chick Embryo
  • Enzyme Activation / physiology
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Growth Cones / metabolism*
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Pseudopodia / metabolism*
  • Retina / metabolism*
  • cdc42 GTP-Binding Protein / metabolism*


  • Actin Depolymerizing Factors
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • cdc42 GTP-Binding Protein