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EphA4 Receptor Shedding Regulates Spinal Motor Axon Guidance

Curr Biol. 2014 Sep 24. pii: S0960-9822(14)01041-0. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2014.08.028. [Epub ahead of print]

Authors/Editors: Gatto G, Morales D, Kania A, Klein R.
Publication Date: 2014



Proteolytic processing of axon guidance receptors modulates their expression and functions. Contact repulsion by membrane-associated ephrins and Eph receptors was proposed to be facilitated by ectodomain cleavage, but whether this phenomenon is required for axon guidance in vivo is unknown.

In support of established models, we find that cleavage of EphA4 promotes cell-cell and growth cone-cell detachment in vitro. Unexpectedly, however, a cleavage resistant isoform of EphA4 is as effective as a wild-type EphA4 in redirecting motor axons in limbs. Mice in which EphA4 cleavage is genetically abolished have motor axon guidance defects, suggesting an important role of EphA4 cleavage in nonneuronal tissues such as the limb mesenchyme target of spinal motor neurons. Indeed, we find that blocking EphA4 cleavage increases expression of full-length EphA4 in limb mesenchyme, which-via cis-attenuation-apparently reduces the effective concentration of ephrinAs capable of triggering EphA4 forward signaling in the motor axons.

We propose that EphA4 cleavage is required to establish the concentration differential of active ephrins in the target tissue that is required for proper axon guidance. Our study reveals a novel mechanism to regulate guidance decision at an intermediate target based on the modulation of ligand availability by the proteolytic processing of the receptor.

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