During brain development, billions of neuron nerve cells must find their accurate pathway in the brain in order to form trillions of neuronal circuits enabling us to enjoy cognitive, sensory and emotional wellbeing. To achieve this remarkable precision, migrating neurons use special protein receptors that sense the environment around them and guide the way so these neurons and their long extensions stay on the right path and avoid faulty turns. Rare defects in these neuronal guidance proteins can result in severe neurological conditions such as ataxia and epilepsy.
In a new study published in Cell, Bar-Ilan University researchers and collaborators report on their discovery of the intricate molecular mechanism that allows the guidance receptor "Robo" to react to signals in its environment, while avoiding premature activity that can lead to harmful outcomes.
Image: Crystal structure of human Robo2 entangled with the C. elegans nematode axon guidance model that was used to test the structure-based hypotheses in vivo. Background - a blooming field of mouse dorsal root ganglion growth cones poised for Slit-Robo stimulation and responses