Directed axonal growth is essential to establish neuronal networks. During the early development of the VD neurons, an anterior neurite that will become the VD axon extends along the anteroposterior (A/P) axis in the ventral nerve cord (VNC) in Caenorhabditis elegans. Little is known about the cellular and molecular mechanisms that are important for correct neurite growth in the VNC. In fmi-1/flamingo mutant animals, we observed that some postembryonically born VD neurons had a posterior neurite instead of a normal anterior neurite, which caused aberrant VD commissure patterning along the A/P axis. In addition, VD anterior neurites had underextension defects in the VNC in fmi-1 animals, whereas VD commissure growth along the dorsoventral (D/V) axis occurred normally in these animals, suggesting that fmi-1 is important for neurite growth along the A/P axis but not the D/V axis. We also uncovered unknown details of the early development of the VD neurons, indicating that the neurite defects arose during their early development. Interestingly, though fmi-1 is present at this time in the VNC, we did not observe FMI-1 in the VD neurons themselves, suggesting that fmi-1 might be working in a cell non-autonomous fashion. Furthermore, fmi-1 appears to be working in a novel pathway, independently from the planar cell polarity pathway and in parallel to lin-17/frizzled and dsh-1/dishevelled, to determine the direction of neurite growth. Our findings indicate that redundant developmental pathways regulate neurite growth in the VNC in C. elegans.
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