Plexin signaling selectively regulates the stereotyped pruning of corticospinal axons from visual cortex

Lawrence K. Low, Xiao Bo Liu, Regina L. Faulkner, Jeffrey Coble, Hwai-Jong Cheng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


Neurons in the developing CNS tend to send out long axon collaterals to multiple target areas. For these neurons to attain specific connections, some of their axon collaterals are subsequently pruned - a process called stereotyped axon pruning. One of the most striking examples of stereotyped pruning in the CNS is the pruning of corticospinal tract (CST) axons. The long CST collaterals from layer V neurons of the visual and motor cortices are differentially pruned during development. Here we demonstrate that select plexins and neuropilins, which serve as coreceptors for semaphorins, are expressed in visual cortical neurons at the time when CST axon collaterals are stereotypically pruned. By analyzing mutant mice, we find that the pruning of visual, but not motor, CST axon collaterals depends on plexin-A3, plexin-A4, and neuropilin-2. Expression pattern study suggests that Sema3F is a candidate local cue for the pruning of visual CST axons. Using electron microscopic analysis, we also show that visual CST axon collaterals form synaptic contacts in the spinal cord before pruning and that the unpruned collaterals in adult mutant mice are unmyelinated and maintain their synaptic contacts. Our results indicate that the stereotyped pruning of the visual and motor CST axon collaterals is differentially regulated and that this specificity arises from the differential expression of plexin receptors in the cortex.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8136-8141
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number23
StatePublished - Jun 10 2008


  • Axon pruning
  • Corticospinal tract
  • Plexin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • General


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