Mechanisms of Axon Guidance in the Developing Nervous System

Céline Plachez, Linda J. Richards

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

42 Scopus citations


The human brain assembles an incredible network of over a billion neurons. Understanding how these connections form during development in order for the brain to function properly is a fundamental question in biology. Much of this wiring takes place during embryonic development. Neurons are generated in the ventricular zone, migrate out, and begin to differentiate. However, neurons are often born in locations some distance from the target cells with which they will ultimately form connections. To form connections, neurons project long axons tipped with a specialized sensing device called a growth cone. The growing axons interact directly with molecules within the environment through which they grow. In order to find their targets, axonal growth cones use guidance molecules that can either attract or repel them. Understanding what these guidance cues are, where they are expressed, and how the growth cone is able to transduce their signal in a directionally specific manner is essential to understanding how the functional brain is constructed. In this chapter, we review what is known about the mechanisms involved in axonal guidance. We discuss how the growth cone is able to sense and respond to its environment and how it is guided by pioneering cells and axons. As examples, we discuss current models for the development of the spinal cord, the cerebral cortex, and the visual and olfactory systems.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNeural Development
EditorsGerald Schatten
Number of pages80
StatePublished - 2005

Publication series

NameCurrent Topics in Developmental Biology
ISSN (Print)0070-2153


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