The question of whether mossy fiber sprouting is epileptogenic has not been resolved; both sprouting-induced recurrent excitatory and inhibitory circuit hypotheses have been experimentally (but not fully) supported. Therefore, whether mossy fiber sprouting is a potential therapeutic target for epilepsy remains under debate. Moreover, the axon guidance mechanisms of mossy fiber sprouting have attracted the interest of neuroscientists. Sprouting of mossy fibers exhibits several uncommon axonal growth features in the basically non-plastic adult brain. For example, robust branching of axonal collaterals arises from pre-existing primary mossy fiber axons. Understanding the branching mechanisms in adulthood may contribute to axonal regeneration therapies in neuroregenerative medicine in which robust axonal re-growth is essential. Additionally, because granule cells are produced throughout life in the neurogenic dentate gyrus, it is interesting to examine whether the mossy fibers of newly generated granule cells follow the pre-existing trajectories of sprouted mossy fibers in the epileptic brain. Understanding these axon guidance mechanisms may contribute to neuron transplantation therapies, for which the incorporation of transplanted neurons into pre-existing neural circuits is essential. Thus, clarifying the axon guidance mechanisms of mossy fiber sprouting could lead to an understanding of central nervous system (CNS) network reorganization and plasticity. Here, we review the molecular and cellular mechanisms of axon guidance in mossy fiber sprouting by discussing mainly in vitro studies.
Keywords: BDNF; axon guidance; dentate gyrus; epilepsy; hippocampal mossy fiber; netrin.