Positional Cues in the Drosophila Nerve Cord: Semaphorins Pattern the Dorso-Ventral Axis

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Citation: Marta Zlatic, Feng Li, Maura Strigini, Wesley Grueber, Michael Bate (2009/06) Positional Cues in the Drosophila Nerve Cord: Semaphorins Pattern the Dorso-Ventral Axis. PLoS Biol (Volume 7) (RSS)
DOI (original publisher): 10.1371/journal.pbio.1000135
Semantic Scholar (metadata): 10.1371/journal.pbio.1000135
Sci-Hub (fulltext): 10.1371/journal.pbio.1000135
Internet Archive Scholar (search for fulltext): Positional Cues in the Drosophila Nerve Cord: Semaphorins Pattern the Dorso-Ventral Axis
Download: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.1000135
Tagged: Biology (RSS)


During the development of neural circuitry, neurons of different kinds establish specific synaptic connections by selecting appropriate targets from large numbers of alternatives. The range of alternative targets is reduced by well organised patterns of growth, termination, and branching that deliver the terminals of appropriate pre- and postsynaptic partners to restricted volumes of the developing nervous system. We use the axons of embryonic Drosophila sensory neurons as a model system in which to study the way in which growing neurons are guided to terminate in specific volumes of the developing nervous system. The mediolateral positions of sensory arbors are controlled by the response of Robo receptors to a Slit gradient. Here we make a genetic analysis of factors regulating position in the dorso-ventral axis. We find that dorso-ventral layers of neuropile contain different levels and combinations of Semaphorins. We demonstrate the existence of a central to dorsal and central to ventral gradient of Sema 2a, perpendicular to the Slit gradient. We show that a combination of Plexin A (Plex A) and Plexin B (Plex B) receptors specifies the ventral projection of sensory neurons by responding to high concentrations of Semaphorin 1a (Sema 1a) and Semaphorin 2a (Sema 2a). Together our findings support the idea that axons are delivered to particular regions of the neuropile by their responses to systems of positional cues in each dimension.

Author Summary

Axons and dendrites of synaptic partners must be targeted to a common region of the developing neural network so that appropriate connections can be formed. The mechanisms underlying this targeting are incompletely understood. We showed previously that a positional cue (Slit) acting in the medio-lateral axis of the Drosophila nerve cord controls the position of sensory terminals independently of their synaptic partners. This work revealed that there might be additional cues operating in a similar fashion in the dorso-ventral axis of the nerve cord. Here we report the discovery of a dorso-ventral system of positional cues, in the form of a gradient of secreted Semaphorin 2a acting at right angles to the Slit gradient, and membrane bound Semaphorin 1a differentially distributed across the neuropile. The two Semaphorins dictate the termination positions of sensory axons in the dorso-ventral axis. Together with a third signal acting in the antero-posterior axis, Semaphorins and Slit deliver axons to appropriate volumes of the neural network. These studies support a model in which axons branch and terminate, independently of synaptic partners, in response to pervasive systems of volumetric positional cues.

This was published in an open access journal.