Developmental neurobiology

Wnt5a evokes cortical axon outgrowth and repulsive guidance by tau mediated reorganization of dynamic microtubules.

PMID 23818454


Wnt5a guides cortical axons in vivo by repulsion and in vitro evokes cortical axon outgrowth and repulsion by calcium signaling pathways. Here we examined the role of microtubule (MT) reorganization and dynamics in mediating effects of Wnt5a. Inhibiting MT dynamics with nocodazole and taxol abolished Wnt5a evoked axon outgrowth and repulsion of cultured hamster cortical neurons. EGFP-EB3 labeled dynamic MTs visualized in live cell imaging revealed that growth cone MTs align with the nascent axon. Wnt5a increased axon outgrowth by reorganization of dynamic MTs from a splayed to a bundled array oriented in the direction of axon extension, and Wnt5a gradients induced asymmetric redistribution of dynamic MTs toward the far side of the growth cone. Wnt5a gradients also evoked calcium transients that were highest on the far side of the growth cone. Calcium signaling and the reorganization of dynamic MTs could be linked by tau, a MT associated protein that stabilizes MTs. Tau is phosphorylated at the Ser 262 MT binding site by CaMKII, and is required for Wnt5a induced axon outgrowth and repulsive turning. Phosphorylation of tau at Ser262 is known to detach tau from MTs to increase their dynamics. Using transfection with tau constructs mutated at Ser262, we found that this site is required for the growth and guidance effects of Wnt5a by mediating reorganization of dynamic MTs in cortical growth cones. Moreover, CaMKII inhibition also prevents MT reorganization required for Wnt5a induced axon outgrowth, thus linking Wnt/calcium signaling to tau mediated MT reorganization during growth cone behaviors.