During development of the adult olfactory system of the moth Manduca sexta, olfactory receptor neurons extend axons from the olfactory epithelium in the antenna into the brain. As they arrive at the brain, interactions with centrally derived glial cells cause axons to sort and fasciculate with other axons destined to innervate the same glomeruli. Here we report studies indicating that activation of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is involved in axon ingrowth and targeting. Blocking the EGFR kinase domain pharmacologically leads to stalling of many axons in the sorting zone and nerve layer as well as abnormal axonal fasciculation in the sorting zone. We also find that neuroglian, an IgCAM known to activate the EGFR through homophilic interactions in other systems, is transiently present on olfactory receptor neuron axons and on glia during the critical stages of the sorting process. The neuroglian is resistant to extraction with Triton X-100 in the sorting zone and nerve layer, possibly indicating its stabilization by homophilic binding in these regions. Our results suggest a mechanism whereby neuroglian molecules on axons and possibly sorting zone glia bind homophilically, leading to activation of EGFRs, with subsequent effects on axon sorting, pathfinding, and extension, and glomerulus development.
Copyright 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.