Semaphorins in axon regeneration: developmental guidance molecules gone wrong?

R. Jeroen Pasterkamp, Joost Verhaagen

Abstract

Semaphorins are developmental axon guidance cues that continue to be expressed during adulthood and are regulated by neural injury. During the formation of the nervous system, repulsive semaphorins guide axons to their targets by restricting and channelling their growth. They affect the growth cone cytoskeleton through interactions with receptor complexes that are linked to a complicated intracellular signal transduction network. Following injury, regenerating axons stop growing when they reach the border of the glial-fibrotic scar, in part because they encounter a potent molecular barrier that inhibits growth cone extension. A number of secreted semaphorins are expressed in the glial-fibrotic scar and at least one transmembrane semaphorin is upregulated in oligodendrocytes surrounding the lesion site. Semaphorin receptors, and many of the signal transduction components required for semaphorin signalling, are present in injured central nervous system neurons. Here, we review evidence that supports a critical role for semaphorin signalling in axon regeneration, and highlight a number of challenges that lie ahead with respect to advancing our understanding of semaphorin function in the normal and injured adult nervous system.

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Footnotes

  • One contribution of 13 to a Theme Issue ‘The regenerating brain’.

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