Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) regulates angiogenesis, but also has important, yet poorly characterized roles in neuronal wiring. Using several genetic and in vitro approaches, we discovered a novel role for VEGF in the control of cerebellar granule cell (GC) migration from the external granule cell layer (EGL) toward the Purkinje cell layer (PCL). GCs express the VEGF receptor Flk1, and are chemoattracted by VEGF, whose levels are higher in the PCL than EGL. Lowering VEGF levels in mice in vivo or ectopic VEGF expression in the EGL ex vivo perturbs GC migration. Using GC-specific Flk1 knock-out mice, we provide for the first time in vivo evidence for a direct chemoattractive effect of VEGF on neurons via Flk1 signaling. Finally, using knock-in mice expressing single VEGF isoforms, we show that pericellular deposition of matrix-bound VEGF isoforms around PC dendrites is necessary for proper GC migration in vivo. These findings identify a previously unknown role for VEGF in neuronal migration.
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