Ventral midline cells are required for the local control of commissural axon guidance in the mouse spinal cord

Michael P. Matise, Marc Lustig, Takeshi Sakurai, Martin Grumet, Alexandra L. Joyner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Specialized cells at the midline of the central nervous system have been implicated in controlling axon projections in both invertebrates and vertebrates. To address the requirement for ventral midline cells in providing cues to commissural axons in mice, we have analyzed Gli2 mouse mutants, which lack specifically the floor plate and immediately adjacent interneurons. We show that a Dbx1 enhancer drives tau-lacZ expression in a subpopulation of commissural axons and, using a reporter line generated from this construct, as well as DiI tracing, we find that commissural axons projected to the ventral midline in Gli2(-/-) embryos. Netrin1 mRNA expression was detected in Gli2(-/-) embryos and, although much weaker than in wild-type embryos, was found in a dorsally decreasing gradient. This result demonstrates that while the door plate can serve as a source of long-range cues for C-axons in vitro, it is not required in vivo for the guidance of commissural axons to the ventral midline in the mouse spinal cord. After reaching the ventral midline, most commissural axons remained clustered in Gli2(-/-) embryos, nervous although some were able to extend longitudinally. Interestingly, some of the longitudinally projecting axons in Gli2(-/-) embryos extended caudally and others rostrally at the ventral midline, in contrast to normal embryos in which virtually all commissural axons turn rostrally after crossing the midline. This finding indicates a critical role for ventral midline cells in regulating the rostral polarity choice made by commissural axons after they cross the midline. In addition, we provide evidence that interactions between commissural axons and floor plate cells are required to modulate the localization of Nr-CAM and TAG-1 proteins on axons at the midline. Finally, we show that the floor plate is not required for the early trajectory of motoneurons or axons of the posterior commissure, whose projections are directed away from the ventral midline in both WT and Gli2(-/-) embryos, although they are less well organized in Gli2(-/-) mutants.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3649-3659
Number of pages11
JournalDevelopment (Cambridge)
Issue number16
StatePublished - Aug 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Cell adhesion molecule
  • Dbx1
  • Floor plate
  • Gli2
  • Mouse
  • Netrin-1
  • Nr-CAM
  • TAG-1


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