Growing axons encounter multiple guidance cues, but it is unclear how separate signals are resolved and integrated into coherent instructions for growth cone navigation. We report that glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI)-anchored ephrin-As function as "reverse" signaling receptors for motor axons when contacted by transmembrane EphAs present in the dorsal limb. Ephrin-A receptors are thought to depend on transmembrane coreceptors for transmitting signals intracellularly. We show that the receptor tyrosine kinase Ret is required for motor axon attraction mediated by ephrin-A reverse signaling. Ret also mediates GPI-anchored GFRα1 signaling in response to GDNF, a diffusible chemoattractant in the limb, indicating that Ret is a multifunctional coreceptor for guidance molecules. Axons respond synergistically to coactivation by GDNF and EphA ligands, and these cooperative interactions are gated by GFRα1 levels. Our studies uncover a hierarchical GPI-receptor signaling network that is constructed from combinatorial components and integrated through Ret using ligand coincidence detection.
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