Adjacent Neuronal Fascicle Guides Motoneuron 24 Dendritic Branching and Axonal Routing Decisions through Dscam1 Signaling

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The formation and precise positioning of axons and dendrites are crucial for the development of neural circuits. Although juxtracrine signaling via cell-cell contact is known to influence these processes, the specific structures and mechanisms regulating neuronal process positioning within the central nervous system (CNS) remain to be fully identified. Our study investigates motoneuron 24 (MN24) in the Drosophila embryonic CNS, which is characterized by a complex yet stereotyped axon projection pattern, known as ‘axonal routing.’ In this motoneuron, the primary dendritic branches project laterally toward the midline, specifically emerging at the sites where axons turn. We observed that Scp2-positive neurons contribute to the lateral fascicle structure in the ventral nerve cord (VNC) near MN24 dendrites. Notably, the knockout of the Down syndrome cell adhesion molecule ( dscam1 ) results in the loss of dendrites and disruption of proper axonal routing in MN24, while not affecting the formation of the fascicle structure. Through cell-type specific knockdown and rescue experiments of dscam1, we have determined that the interaction between MN24 and Scp2-positive fascicle, mediated by Dscam1, promotes the development of both dendrites and axonal routing. Our findings demonstrate that the holistic configuration of neuronal structures, such as axons and dendrites, within single motoneurons can be governed by local contact with the adjacent neuron fascicle, a novel reference structure for neural circuitry wiring.

Significance Summary

We uncover a key neuronal structure serving as a guiding reference for neural circuitry within the Drosophila embryonic CNS, highlighting the essential role of an adjacent axonal fascicle in precisely coordinating axon and dendrite positioning in motoneuron 24 (MN24). Our investigation of cell-cell interactions between motoneurons and adjacent axonal fascicles— crucial for initiating dendrite formation, soma migration, and axonal pathfinding in MN24— emphasizes the neuronal fascicle’s significance in neural circuit formation through Dscam1-mediated inter-neuronal communication. This enhances our understanding of the molecular underpinnings of motoneuron morphogenesis in Drosophila . Given the occurrence of analogous axon fascicle formations within the vertebrate spinal cord, such structures may play a conserved role in the morphogenesis of motoneurons via Dscam1 across phyla.

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