Control of neuronal morphology in vitro: Interplay between adhesive substrate forces and molecular instruction

A. Lochter, J. Taylor, K. ‐H Braunewell, J. Holm, M. Schachner

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39 Scopus citations


Among the factors which influence neuronal morphology, the degree of substrate adhesivity has been suggested to play an important role in the growth and guidance of neurites. The present study was undertaken to investigate apparently contradictory results relating substrate adhesivity to the extent of neurite outgrowth. By using substrates coated with different concentrations of polyornithine to vary adhesivity, we could show that intermediate levels of neuron‐to‐substrate adhesive strength favored neurite outgrowth more than substrates of high or low adhesivity. However, when neurons were plated on substrates derived from the extracellular matrix, the strength of neuronto‐substrate adhesion was important for the growth of dendrite‐like minor neurites, but not for the extension of axon‐like major neurites, which grew independently of adhesive forces. On substrates of the cell adhesion molecule L1, growth of both major and minor neurites was adhesion‐independent. Finally, in the presence of tenascin added to the culture medium, neurite growth was inhibited irrespective of the adhesivity of the substrate and the presence of substrate‐bound extracellular matrix molecules or L1. These observations suggest that intermediate forces of adhesivity favor neurite growth in general, but that purely adhesive forces can be dominated by specific molecular instructions which differentially affect growth of major and minor neurites in positive and negative ways. © 1995 Wiley‐Liss, Inc.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)145-158
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Neuroscience Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 1 1995

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


  • L1
  • adhesion
  • extracellular matrix
  • neural development
  • neurite outgrowth
  • tenascin


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