The dual role of the ligand UNC-6/Netrin in both axon guidance and synaptogenesis in C. elegans

Cell Adh Migr. Jul-Sep 2009;3(3):268-71. doi: 10.4161/cam.3.3.8398. Epub 2009 Jul 12.


The extracellular cue UNC-6/Netrin is a well-known axon guidance molecule and recently it has also been shown to be involved with localization of pre-synaptic complexes. Working through the UNC-40/DCC/Fra receptor, UNC-6/Netrin promotes the formation of pre-synaptic terminals between the pre-synaptic AIY interneuron and its post-synaptic partner, the RIA interneuron. In the DA9 motor neuron, UNC-6/Netrin has an alternate role promoting the exclusion of pre-synaptic components from the dendrite via its UNC-5-receptor. Surprisingly, the requirement for UNC-5 persists even after DA9 axon migration is complete, because synapses become mis-localized after it is depleted. This observation provides at least a partial explanation for the persistence of UNC-6/Netrin and UNC-5 in the adult nervous system. These activities parallel the previously known bi-functional axon guidance effects of UNC-6/Netrin, since it can attract cells and axons expressing UNC-40/DCC/Fra and repel those expressing UNC-5 alone or in combination with UNC-40. UNC-6/Netrin cooperates with the Wnt family members to exclude synapses from compartments within the DA9 axon, so that they only occur in regions free of the influence of both UNC-6/Netrin and the Wnts. Regulation of both axon guidance and synapse formation by axon guidance cues permits coordination in circuit assembly between pre- and post-synaptic cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / metabolism*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / metabolism*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / metabolism*
  • Ligands
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism*
  • Netrin Receptors
  • Netrins
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / metabolism
  • Synapses / metabolism*
  • Wnt Proteins / metabolism


  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins
  • Ligands
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Netrin Receptors
  • Netrins
  • Receptors, Cell Surface
  • UNC-6 protein, C elegans
  • Wnt Proteins