Newly generated neurons initiate polarizing signals that specify a single axon and multiple dendrites, a process critical for patterning neuronal circuits in vivo. Here, we report that the pan-neurotrophin receptor p75(NTR) is a polarity regulator that localizes asymmetrically in differentiating neurons in response to neurotrophins and is required for specification of the future axon. In cultured hippocampal neurons, local exposure to neurotrophins causes early accumulation of p75(NTR) into one undifferentiated neurite to specify axon fate. Moreover, knockout or knockdown of p75(NTR) results in failure to initiate an axon in newborn neurons upon cell-cycle exit in vitro and in the developing cortex, as well as during adult hippocampal neurogenesis in vivo. Hence, p75(NTR) governs neuronal polarity, determining pattern and assembly of neuronal circuits in adult hippocampus and cortical development.
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