Regulation of actomyosin contractility by PI3K in sensory axons

Dev Neurobiol. 2007 Dec;67(14):1843-51. doi: 10.1002/dneu.20558.


Phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) activity is known to be required for the extension of embryonic sensory axons. Inhibition of PI3K has also been shown to mediate axon retraction and growth cone collapse in response to semaphorin 3A. However, the effects of inhibiting PI3K on the neuronal cytoskeleton are not well characterized. We have previously reported that semaphorin 3A-induced axon retraction involves activation of myosin II, the formation of an intra-axonal F-actin bundle cytoskeleton, and blocks the formation of F-actin patches that serve as precursors to filopodial formation in axons. We now report that inhibition of PI3K results in activation of myosin II in axons. Inhibition of myosin II activity, or its upstream regulatory kinase RhoA-kinase, blocked axon retraction induced by inhibition of PI3K. In addition, inhibition of PI3K also induced intra-axonal F-actin bundles, which likely serve as a substratum for myosin II-based force generation during axon retraction. In axons, filopodia are formed from axonal F-actin patch precursors. Analysis of axonal F-actin patch formation in eYFP-actin expressing neurons revealed that inhibition of PI3K blocked formation of axonal F-actin patches, and thus filopodial formation. These data provide insights into the regulation of the neuronal cytoskeleton by PI3K and are consistent with the notion that decreased levels of PI3K activity mediate axon retraction and growth cone collapse in response to semaphorin 3A.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Actins / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Axons / drug effects
  • Axons / enzymology*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chick Embryo
  • Chromones / pharmacology
  • Drug Interactions
  • Enzyme Activation / drug effects
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Ganglia, Spinal / cytology
  • Growth Cones / drug effects
  • Luminescent Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Morpholines / pharmacology
  • Myosin Type II / metabolism*
  • Neurons, Afferent / cytology*
  • Neurons, Afferent / drug effects
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases / metabolism*
  • Retrograde Degeneration / chemically induced
  • Time Factors
  • Transfection


  • Actins
  • Chromones
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Luminescent Proteins
  • Morpholines
  • 2-(4-morpholinyl)-8-phenyl-4H-1-benzopyran-4-one
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases
  • Myosin Type II