Scientists at Helmholtz Zentrum München have discovered how sensory and motor fibers* interact during development of neuronal circuits in the limbs: Both types of nerve fibers can guide this process. With this finding, the researchers have made an important contribution to understanding how neural networks are formed during embryonic development and have found a new approach to explaining neurological disorders.
During embryonic development, sensory and motor fibers interact to form nerves in the limbs. The research team led by Dr. Andrea Huber Brösamle of the Institute of Developmental Genetics of Helmholtz Zentrum München has now elucidated how this interaction functions at the molecular level: The cell surface receptor neuropilin-1 is present in both sensory and motor nerve fibers and controls their interaction in order to correctly regulate growth.
"We observed that motor and sensory axons were both able to guide and lead the formation of the spinal nerves of the arms and legs," said Rosa-Eva Hüttl and Heidi Söllner, lead authors of the study and doctoral students in Dr. Andrea Huber Brösamle's research group. This finding surprised the authors because it had previously been assumed that the motor axons were always responsible for establishing the correct trajectories. In the same study, the researchers created a model to better elucidate structural changes in human neurodegenerative disorders and following trauma : "Our next goal," said Dr. Huber Brösamle, "is to find out to what extent neuropilin-1 also controls the formation of fiber tracts in the brain."
*Nerves are bundles of sensory and motor fibers. The sensory fibers transmit physical sensation signs (e.g. pain), while the motor fibers control the contraction and movement of muscles.
The above story is based on materials provided by Helmholtz Zentrum München - German Research Center for Environmental Health. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.
- Rosa-Eva Huettl, Heidi Soellner, Elisa Bianchi, Bennett G. Novitch, Andrea B. Huber. Npn-1 Contributes to Axon-Axon Interactions That Differentially Control Sensory and Motor Innervation of the Limb. PLoS Biology, 2011; 9 (2): e1001020 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001020
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