Background: The process of axon guidance is important in establishing functional neural circuits. The differential expression of cell-autonomous axon guidance factors is crucial for allowing axons of different neurons to take unique trajectories in response to spatially and temporally restricted cell non-autonomous axon guidance factors. A key motivation in the field is to provide adequate explanations for axon behavior with respect to the differential expression of these factors.
Results: We report the characterization of a predicted secreted semaphorin family member, semaphorin2b (Sema-2b) in Drosophila embryonic axon guidance. Misexpression of Sema-2b in neurons causes highly penetrant axon guidance phenotypes in specific longitudinal and motoneuron pathways; however, expression of Sema-2b in muscles traversed by these motoneurons has no effect on axon guidance. In Sema-2b loss-of-function embryos, specific motoneuron and interneuron axon pathways display guidance defects. Specific visualization of the neurons that normally express Sema-2b reveals that this neuronal cohort is strongly affected by Sema-2b loss-of-function alleles.
Conclusions: While secreted semaphorins have been implicated as cell non-autonomous chemorepellants in a variety of contexts, here we report previously undescribed Sema-2b loss-of-function and misexpression phenotypes that are consistent with a cell-autonomous role for Sema-2b.
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