Involvement of microtubules in the regulation of neuronal growth cone morphologic remodeling

J Neurobiol. 1998 May;35(2):121-40.


The guidance of nerve fibers depends on the constant protrusion, movement, and retraction (i.e., remodeling) of growth cone lamellae and filopodia. We used drugs that interfere with the dynamics of microtubules to investigate the role of microtubules in the remodeling of larval amphibian spinal cord neuronal growth cones. Vinblastine (8-100 nM), taxol (10 nM), and nocodazole (330 nM) altered microtubule distributions in growth cones and decreased the percentage of lamellar perimeter undergoing remodeling, while not affecting the rates of lamellar protrusion and retraction. Also, 8-20 nM vinblastine caused temporary losses of the continuity of the originally fan-shaped lamella, resulting in two or more lamellae at the growth cone. At higher concentrations of microtubule drugs, the originally fan-shaped lamella broke up into separate smaller lamellae followed by the centrifugal displacement from the base of the growth cone and eventual collapse of the resultant lamellae. Low doses of cytochalasin B prevented the centrifugal displacement of lamellae in response to microtubule drugs. During microtubule drug-mediated loss of growth cone lamellae, some filopodia were observed to elongate to greater than normal lengths. Similarly, exposure to 20 nM vinblastine resulted in an increase in filopodial length but not filopodial number. As evidenced by DiOC6(3) staining, 8-20 nM vinblastine altered the distribution of membranous organelles within growth cones, suggesting that the effects of microtubule drugs on growth cones may be mediated in part by alterations in organelle localization. Our data show that microtubules are involved in the maintenance and regulation of lamellar and filopodial structures at the neuronal growth cone. These findings have implications for the mechanisms by which growth cones are guided during development and regeneration.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Actins / physiology
  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / pharmacology
  • Cytoskeleton / chemistry
  • Cytoskeleton / physiology
  • Microscopy, Video
  • Microtubules / drug effects
  • Microtubules / physiology*
  • Nerve Fibers / ultrastructure
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Neurons / ultrastructure
  • Organelles / drug effects
  • Rana pipiens
  • Vinblastine / pharmacology


  • Actins
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • Vinblastine