Investigations into the functions of immunoglobulin like cell adhesion molecules during vertebrate neural development
During neural development, each neuron sends an axon out from its cell body. Extending axons are guided by interactions between environmental factors and axonal receptors for these factors. It has been suggested that certain proteins of the immunoglobulin-like superfamily are among the molecules involved in axon guidance. In particular, TAG-1, Ll and NrCAM have previously been implicated in the guidance of dorsal spinal commissural axons at the ventral midline region known as the floor plate. To establish whether these molecules have such roles in mice, the dorsal spinal axons of TAG-1, L1 or NrCAM mutant mouse embryos were traced. There were no significant differences between the results from mutant embryos and their wild type counterparts. This indicated that these three proteins are individually not essential for the normal development of mouse dorsal spinal projections. However, results from TAG-MLI double mutant embryos suggested that TAG- I and LI might affect the ability of commissural axons to extend out of the floor plate. Analysis of ephrin B3 mutant embryos indicated that ephrin B3 might also be important for floor plate exit. As the TAG-1 null mutation includes a lacZ construct, this reporter gene was used to further investigate the roles of TAG-1. Its expression was used to determine distribution of TAG-1 gene activity in the developing mouse nervous system. As the pattern of reporter expression was found to be comparable with that of TAG-1 protein, the TAG-1 null allele was used as a marker for TAG-1-expressing cells in mutant embryos. Most of the structures that normally express TAG-1 seemed to be unaffected by an absence of the protein. However, the hypoglossal nerve was significantly less likely to extend towards the tongue in TAG-1 null homozygous embryos than in heterozygotes. This suggested that TAG-1 might be important for the guidance of hypoglossal axons.