Science signaling

Semaphorin 3A activates the guanosine triphosphatase Rab5 to promote growth cone collapse and organize callosal axon projections.

PMID 25161316


Axon guidance (pathfinding) wires the brain during development and is regulated by various attractive and repulsive cues. Semaphorin 3A (Sema3A) is a repulsive cue, inducing the collapse of axon growth cones. In the mammalian forebrain, the corpus callosum is the major commissure that transmits information flow between the two hemispheres, and contralateral axons assemble into well-defined tracts. We found that the patterning of callosal axon projections in rodent layer II and III (L2/3) cortical neurons in response to Sema3A was mediated by the activation of Rab5, a small guanosine triphosphatase (GTPase) that mediates endocytosis, through the membrane fusion protein Rabaptin-5 and the Rab5 guanine nucleotide exchange factor (GEF) Rabex-5. Rabaptin-5 bound directly to Plexin-A1 in the Sema3A receptor complex [an obligate heterodimer formed by Plexin-A1 and neuropilin 1 (NP1)]; Sema3A enhanced this interaction in cultured neurons. Rabaptin-5 bridged the interaction between Rab5 and Plexin-A1. Sema3A stimulated endocytosis from the cell surface of callosal axon growth cones. In utero electroporation to reduce Rab5 or Rabaptin-5 impaired axon fasciculation or caused mistargeting of L2/3 callosal projections in rats. Overexpression of Rabaptin-5 or Rab5 rescued the defective callosal axon fasciculation or mistargeting of callosal axons caused by the loss of Sema3A-Plexin-A1 signaling in rats expressing dominant-negative Plexin-A1 or in NP1-deficient mice. Thus, our findings suggest that Rab5, its effector Rabaptin-5, and its regulator Rabex-5 mediate Sema3A-induced axon guidance during brain development.