The precise assembly of a functional nervous system relies on the guided migration of axonal growth cones, which is made possible by signals transmitted to the cytoskeleton by cell surface-expressed guidance receptors. We investigated the function of ephexin1, a Rho guanine nucleotide exchange factor, as an essential growth-cone guidance intermediary in the context of spinal lateral motor column (LMC) motor axon trajectory selection in the limb mesenchyme. Using in situm RNA detection, we first show that ephexin1 is expressed in LMC neurons of chick and mouse embryos at the time of spinal motor axon extension into the limb. Ephexin1 loss of function and gain of function using in ovo electroporation in chick LMC neurons, of either sex, perturbed LMC axontrajectory selection, demonstratingan essential role of ephexin1 in motoraxonguidance. Inaddition, ephexin1loss inmice of eithersexled to LMC axontrajectory selection errors.Wealsoshowthatephexin1knockdownattenuates the growth preference of LMC neurites against ephrins in vitro and Eph receptor-mediated retargeting of LMC axons in vivo, suggesting that ephexin1 is required in Eph-mediated LMC motor axon guidance. Finally, boThephexin1 knockdown and ectopic expression of nonphosphorylatable ephexin1 mutant attenuated the retargeting of LMC axons caused by Src overexpression, implicating ephexin1 as an Src target in Eph signal relay in this context. In summary, our findings demonstrate that ephexin1 is essential for motor axon guidance and suggest an important role in relaying ephrin:Eph signals that mediate motor axon trajectory selection.
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