Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

Gas1 is a receptor for sonic hedgehog to repel enteric axons.

PMID 25535338


The myenteric plexus of the enteric nervous system controls the movement of smooth muscles in the gastrointestinal system. They extend their axons between two peripheral smooth muscle layers to form a tubular meshwork arborizing the gut wall. How a tubular axonal meshwork becomes established without invading centrally toward the gut epithelium has not been addressed. We provide evidence here that sonic hedgehog (Shh) secreted from the gut epithelium prevents central projections of enteric axons, thereby forcing their peripheral tubular distribution. Exclusion of enteric central projections by Shh requires its binding partner growth arrest specific gene 1 (Gas1) and its signaling component smoothened (Smo) in enteric neurons. Using enteric neurons differentiated from neurospheres in vitro, we show that enteric axon growth is not inhibited by Shh. Rather, when Shh is presented as a point source, enteric axons turn away from it in a Gas1-dependent manner. Of the Gαi proteins that can couple with Smo, G protein α Z (Gnaz) is found in enteric axons. Knockdown and dominant negative inhibition of Gnaz dampen the axon-repulsive response to Shh, and Gnaz mutant intestines contain centrally projected enteric axons. Together, our data uncover a previously unsuspected mechanism underlying development of centrifugal tubular organization and identify a previously unidentified effector of Shh in axon guidance.