Integrated interactions between chondroitin sulphate proteoglycans and weak dc electric fields regulate nerve growth cone guidance in vitro

Lynda Erskine, Colin Darnley McCaig

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31 Citations (Scopus)


During development and regenerative growth, neuronal pathways are defined in part by several endogenous cues that collectively determine directed growth. The interactions between such cues largely are unknown. To address potential interactions, we have examined in vitro the combined effect on nerve growth of two endogenous growth cone guidance cues: chondroitin sulphate proteoglycans and weak dc electric fields. Addition to the culture medium of a chondroitin 6-sulphate/keratan sulphate containing PG (BNC-PG) markedly enhanced the cathodal re-orientation of embryonic Xenopus neurites in an electric field, whereas a proteoglycan containing chondroitin 4-sulphate (RC-PG) was inhibitory. These effects of BNC-PG and RC-PG were reproduced by their chondroitin sulphate glycosaminoglycan side chains alone. Chondroitin 6-sulphate or chondroitin 4-sulphate, respectively, enhanced and inhibited cathodally-directed nerve re-orientation. This was dependent on the integrity of the glycosaminoglycan chain structure; when digested into their disaccharide subunits both molecules became inactive. Keratan sulphate, a minor component of BNC-PG, was found to be inhibitory, whereas dermatan sulphate, an epimer of chondroitin 4-sulphate, had no effect. We conclude that in vitro specific interactions between these two nerve guidance cues do occur and that the specificity of the response is critically dependent on the charge pattern of the proteoglycans chondroitin sulphate side chains. The expression of a host of proteoglycans with differing glycosaminoglycan side chains varies in both time and place in the developing nervous system, thus the scope is vast for spatial and temporal modulation of nerve guidance by interacting cues.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1957-1965
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Cell Science
Issue number16
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 1997


  • Animals
  • Carbohydrate Conformation
  • Chondroitin Sulfates
  • Dermatan Sulfate
  • Disaccharides
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian
  • Keratan Sulfate
  • Kinetics
  • Nervous System
  • Neurites
  • Neurons
  • Proteochondroitin Sulfates
  • Xenopus laevis
  • Development
  • Glycosaminoglycan,
  • Axon guidance


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