Extension of neurites from a cell body is essential to form a functional nervous system; however, the mechanisms underlying neuritogenesis are poorly understood. Ena/VASP proteins regulate actin dynamics and modulate elaboration of cellular protrusions. We recently reported that cortical axon-tract formation is lost in Ena/VASP-null mice and Ena/VASP-null cortical neurons lack filopodia and fail to elaborate neurites. Here, we report that neuritogenesis in Ena/VASP-null neurons can be rescued by restoring filopodia formation through ectopic expression of the actin nucleating protein mDia2. Conversely, wild-type neurons in which filopodia formation is blocked fail to elaborate neurites. We also report that laminin, which promotes the formation of filopodia-like actin-rich protrusions, rescues neuritogenesis in Ena/VASP-deficient neurons. Therefore, filopodia formation is a key prerequisite for neuritogenesis in cortical neurons. Neurite initiation also requires microtubule extension into filopodia, suggesting that interactions between actin-filament bundles and dynamic microtubules within filopodia are crucial for neuritogenesis.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology