Migration and pathfinding of neuronal growth cones during neurite extension is critically dependent on dynamic microtubules. In this study we sought to determine, which aspects of microtubule polymerization relate to growth cone morphology and migratory characteristics. We conducted a multiscale quantitative microscopy analysis using automated tracking of microtubule plus ends in migrating growth cones of cultured murine dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons. Notably, this comprehensive analysis failed to identify any changes in microtubule polymerization parameters that were specifically associated with spontaneous extension vs. retraction of growth cones. This suggests that microtubule dynamicity is a basic mechanism that does not determine the polarity of growth cone response but can be exploited to accommodate diverse growth cone behaviors. At the same time, we found a correlation between growth cone size and basic parameters of microtubule polymerization including the density of growing microtubule plus ends and rate and duration of microtubule growth. A similar correlation was observed in growth cones of neurons lacking the microtubule-associated protein MAP1B. However, MAP1B-null growth cones, which are deficient in growth cone migration and steering, displayed an overall reduction in microtubule dynamicity. Our results highlight the importance of taking growth cone size into account when evaluating the influence on growth cone microtubule dynamics of different substrata, guidance factors or genetic manipulations which all can change growth cone morphology and size. The type of large scale multiparametric analysis performed here can help to separate direct effects that these perturbations might have on microtubule dynamics from indirect effects resulting from perturbation-induced changes in growth cone size.
Kiss, A., Fischer, I., Kleele, T., Misgeld, T., & Propst, F. (2018). Neuronal growth cone size-dependent and -independent parameters of microtubule polymerization. Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience, 12. https://doi.org/10.3389/fncel.2018.00195