UNC-40/DCC, SAX-3/Robo, and VAB-1/Eph Polarize F-Actin during Embryonic Morphogenesis by Regulating the WAVE/SCAR Actin Nucleation Complex

Yelena Y. Bernadskaya, Andre Wallace, Jillian Nguyen, William A. Mohler, Martha C. Soto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Many cells in a developing embryo, including neurons and their axons and growth cones, must integrate multiple guidance cues to undergo directed growth and migration. The UNC-6/netrin, SLT-1/slit, and VAB-2/Ephrin guidance cues, and their receptors, UNC-40/DCC, SAX-3/Robo, and VAB-1/Eph, are known to be major regulators of cellular growth and migration. One important area of research is identifying the molecules that interpret this guidance information downstream of the guidance receptors to reorganize the actin cytoskeleton. However, how guidance cues regulate the actin cytoskeleton is not well understood. We report here that UNC-40/DCC, SAX-3/Robo, and VAB-1/Eph differentially regulate the abundance and subcellular localization of the WAVE/SCAR actin nucleation complex and its activator, Rac1/CED-10, in the Caenorhabditis elegans embryonic epidermis. Loss of any of these three pathways results in embryos that fail embryonic morphogenesis. Similar defects in epidermal enclosure have been observed when CED-10/Rac1 or the WAVE/SCAR actin nucleation complex are missing during embryonic development in C. elegans. Genetic and molecular experiments demonstrate that in fact, these three axonal guidance proteins differentially regulate the levels and membrane enrichment of the WAVE/SCAR complex and its activator, Rac1/CED-10, in the epidermis. Live imaging of filamentous actin (F-actin) in embryos developing in the absence of individual guidance receptors shows that high levels of F-actin are not essential for polarized cell migrations, but that properly polarized distribution of F-actin is essential. These results suggest that proper membrane recruitment and activation of CED-10/Rac1 and of WAVE/SCAR by signals at the plasma membrane result in polarized F-actin that permits directed movements and suggest how multiple guidance cues can result in distinct changes in actin nucleation during morphogenesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1002863
JournalPLoS genetics
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)
  • Cancer Research


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