During the development of the nervous system, outgrowing axons often have to travel long distances to reach their target neurons. In this process, outgrowing neurites tipped with motile growth cones rely on guidance cues present in their local environment. These cues are detected by specific receptors expressed on growth cones and neurites and influence the trajectory of the growing fibres. Neurite growth, guidance, target innervation and synapse formation and maturation are the processes that occur predominantly but not exclusively during embryonic or early post-natal development in vertebrates. As a result, a functional neural network is established, which is usually remarkably stable. However, the stability of the neural network in higher vertebrates comes at an expensive price, i.e. the loss of any significant ability to regenerate injured or damaged neuronal connections in their central nervous system (CNS). Most importantly, neurite growth inhibitors prevent any regenerative growth of injured nerve fibres. Some of these inhibitors are associated with CNS myelin, others are found at the lesion site and in the scar tissue. Traumatic injuries in brain and spinal cord of mammals induce upregulation of embryonic inhibitory or repulsive guidance cues and their receptors on the neurites. An example for embryonic repulsive directional cues re-expressed at lesion sites in both the rat and human CNS is provided with repulsive guidance molecules, a new family of directional guidance cues.
One contribution of 13 to a Theme Issue ‘The regenerating brain’.
- © 2006 The Royal Society