A fundamental step in neuronal development is the acquisition of a polarized form, with distinct axons and dendrites. Although the ability to develop a polarized form appears to be largely an intrinsic property of neurons, it can be influenced by environmental cues. For example, in cell cultures substrate and diffusible factors can enhance and orient axonal development. In this study we examine the effects of growth on each of two cell adhesion molecules (CAMs), NgCAM and N-cadherin, on the development of polarity by cultured hippocampal neurons. We find that although the same pattern of development occurs on control substrates and the CAMs, the CAMs greatly accelerate the rate and extent of development of axons - axons form sooner and grow longer on the CAMs than on the control substrate. In contrast, the CAMs have opposite effects on dendritic development - N-cadherin enhances, but NgCAM reduces dendritic growth compared to control. These results provide further evidence that the development of polarity is largely determined by a cell-autonomous program, but that environmental cues can independently regulate axonal and dendritic growth.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology