Axonal growth cones are guided by molecular cues in the extracellular environment. The mechanisms of combinatorial integration of guidance signals at the growth cone cell membrane are still being unravelled. Limb-innervating axons of vertebrate spinal lateral motor column (LMC) neurons are attracted to netrin-1 via its receptor, Neogenin, and are repelled from ephrin-A5 through its receptor EphA4. The presence of both cues elicits synergistic guidance of LMC axons, but the mechanism of this effect remains unknown. Using fluorescence immunohistochemistry, we show that ephrin-A5 increases LMC growth cone Neogenin protein levels and netrin-1 binding. This effect is enhanced by overexpressing EphA4 and is inhibited by blocking ephrin-A5-EphA4 binding. These effects have a functional consequence on LMC growth cone responses since bath addition of ephrin-A5 increases the responsiveness of LMC axons to netrin-1. Surprisingly, the overexpression of EphA4 lacking its cytoplasmic tail, also enhances Neogenin levels at the growth cone and potentiates LMC axon preference for growth on netrin-1. Since netrins and ephrins participate in a wide variety of biological processes, the enhancement of netrin-1 signalling by ephrins may have broad implications.
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