Neuronal cell shape and neurite initiation are regulated by the Ndr kinase SAX-1, a member of the Orb6/COT-1/warts serine/threonine kinase family.
The Caenorhabditis elegans sax-1 gene regulates several aspects of neuronal cell shape. sax-1 mutants have expanded cell bodies and ectopic neurites in many classes of neurons, suggesting that SAX-1 functions to restrict cell and neurite growth. The ectopic neurites in sensory neurons of sax-1 mutants resemble the defects caused by decreased sensory activity. However, the activity-dependent pathway, mediated in part by the UNC-43 calcium/calmodulin-dependent kinase II, functions in parallel with SAX-1 to suppress neurite initiation. sax-1 encodes a serine/threonine kinase in the Ndr family that is related to the Orb6 (Schizosaccharomyces pombe), Warts/Lats (Drosophila), and COT-1 (Neurospora) kinases that function in cell shape regulation. These kinases have similarity to Rho kinases but lack consensus Rho-binding domains. Dominant negative mutations in the C. elegans RhoA GTPase cause neuronal cell shape defects similar to those of sax-1 mutants, and genetic interactions between rhoA and sax-1 suggest shared functions. These results suggest that SAX-1/Ndr kinases are endogenous inhibitors of neurite initiation and cell spreading.
Zallen, JA; Peckol, EL; Tobin, DM; Bargmann, CI
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