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Open Access Research article

Bidirectional remodeling of β1-integrin adhesions during chemotropic regulation of nerve growth

Lucas P Carlstrom1, Jacob H Hines24, Steven J Henle2 and John R Henley23*

Author Affiliations

1 Medical Scientist Training Program, Mayo Graduate School, Mayo Clinic: College of Medicine, Rochester, Minnesota 55905, USA

2 Department of Neurologic Surgery, Mayo Clinic: College of Medicine, Rochester, Minnesota 55905, USA

3 Department of Physiology and Biomedical Engineering, Mayo Clinic: College of Medicine, Rochester, Minnesota 55905, USA

4 Department of Pediatrics, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, Colorado 80045, USA

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BMC Biology 2011, 9:82  doi:10.1186/1741-7007-9-82

Published: 30 November 2011

Abstract

Background

Chemotropic factors in the extracellular microenvironment guide nerve growth by acting on the growth cone located at the tip of extending axons. Growth cone extension requires the coordination of cytoskeleton-dependent membrane protrusion and dynamic adhesion to the extracellular matrix, yet how chemotropic factors regulate these events remains an outstanding question. We demonstrated previously that the inhibitory factor myelin-associated glycoprotein (MAG) triggers endocytic removal of the adhesion receptor β1-integrin from the growth cone surface membrane to negatively remodel substrate adhesions during chemorepulsion. Here, we tested how a neurotrophin might affect integrin adhesions.

Results

We report that brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF) positively regulates the formation of substrate adhesions in axonal growth cones during stimulated outgrowth and prevents removal of β1-integrin adhesions by MAG. Treatment of Xenopus spinal neurons with BDNF rapidly triggered β1-integrin clustering and induced the dynamic formation of nascent vinculin-containing adhesion complexes in the growth cone periphery. Both the formation of nascent β1-integrin adhesions and the stimulation of axon extension by BDNF required cytoplasmic calcium ion signaling and integrin activation at the cell surface. Exposure to MAG decreased the number of β1-integrin adhesions in the growth cone during inhibition of axon extension. In contrast, the BDNF-induced adhesions were resistant to negative remodeling by MAG, correlating with the ability of BDNF pretreatment to counteract MAG-inhibition of axon extension. Pre-exposure to MAG prevented the BDNF-induced formation of β1-integrin adhesions and blocked the stimulation of axon extension by BDNF.

Conclusions

Altogether, these findings demonstrate the neurotrophin-dependent formation of integrin-based adhesions in the growth cone and reveal how a positive regulator of substrate adhesions can block the negative remodeling and growth inhibitory effects of MAG. Such bidirectional remodeling may allow the growth cone to rapidly adjust adhesiveness to the extracellular matrix as a general mechanism for governing axon extension. Techniques for manipulating integrin internalization and activation state may be important for overcoming local inhibitory factors after traumatic injury or neurodegenerative disease to enhance regenerative nerve growth.