Genetic investigations have demonstrated that a specific form of axonal branching - the bifurcation of afferents from dorsal root ganglia (DRG), cranial sensory ganglia (CSG) and mesencephalic trigeminal neurons (MTN) - is regulated by a cGMP-dependent signaling pathway. This cascade is composed of the ligand C-type natriuretic peptide (CNP), the receptor guanylyl cyclase Npr2, and the cGMP-dependent protein kinase Iα (cGKIα). In the absence of any one of these components, axons no longer bifurcate, instead they turn in either an ascending or a descending direction. To gain further mechanistic insights into the process of axon bifurcation we applied different cell culture approaches to decipher downstream activities of cGKI in somatosensory growth cones. We demonstrate that CNP induces an enlargement of DRG growth cones via cGKI which is considered as the priming step of axon bifurcation in the spinal cord. This growth cone remodeling was both blocked by pharmacological inhibitors of S-palmitoylation and potentiated by blocking de-palmitoylation. cGKI colocalizes with the palmitoylome and vesicular structures including the endoplasmic reticulum, early endosomes, lysosomes primarily in the central domain of the growth cone as well as with the Golgi apparatus at the level of the soma. Interestingly, an acyl-biotin-exchange chemistry-based screen indicated that 8pCPT-cGMP-induced signaling induces S-palmitoylation of a restricted pool of proteins in the DRG-derived cell line F11. Overall, our data indicate that CNP-induced cGMP signaling via cGKI affects growth cone morphology of somatosensory afferents. Moreover, it also suggests that S-palmitoylation might play a role in this process.
Keywords: C-type natriuretic peptide; S-palmitoylation; axon branching; cGMP signaling; cGMP-dependent kinase I; growth cone morphology; natriuretic peptide receptor 2.