Luo, ZG (reprint author), Chinese Acad Sci, Inst Neurosci, Shanghai 200031, Peoples R China.,email@example.com
Axon specification during neuronal polarization is closely associated with increased microtubule stabilization in one of the neurites of unpolarized neuron, but how this increased microtubule stability is achieved is unclear. Here, we show that extracellular matrix (ECM) component laminin promotes neuronal polarization via regulating directional microtubule assembly through beta 1 integrin (Itgb1). Contact with laminin coated on culture substrate or poly-styrene beads was sufficient for axon specification of undifferentiated neurites in cultured hippocampal neurons and cortical slices. Active Itgb1 was found to be concentrated in laminin-contacting neurites. Axon formation was promoted and abolished by enhancing and attenuating Itgb1 signaling, respectively. Interestingly, laminin contact promoted plus-end microtubule assembly in a manner that required Itgb1. Moreover, stabilizing microtubules partially prevented polarization defects caused by Itgb1 downregulation. Finally, genetic ablation of Itgb1 in dorsal telencephalic progenitors caused deficits in axon development of cortical pyramidal neurons. Thus, laminin/Itgb1 signaling plays an instructive role in axon initiation and growth, both in vitro and in vivo, through the regulation of microtubule assembly. This study has established a linkage between an extrinsic factor and intrinsic cytoskeletal dynamics during neuronal polarization.