Long distance cell migration occurs throughout the developing CNS, but the underlying cellular and molecular mechanisms are poorly understood. We show that the directed circumferential migration of basilar pontine neurons from their origin in the neuroepithelium of the dorsal hindbrain to the ventral midline involves the extension of long (>1 mm) leading processes, which marker analyses suggest are molecularly distinct from axons. In vivo analysis of knockout mice implicates the axonal chemoattractant netrin-1, functioning via its receptor Deleted in Colorectal Cancer (DCC), in attracting the leading process to the ventral midline. Direct evidence for this chemoattractant mechanism is provided, using explant cultures and time- lapse analysis in vitro. Our results demonstrate the attraction of migrating neurons in the mammalian brain by an axon guidance molecule and the chemotactic responsiveness of their leading processes.
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