Membrane excitability in the axonal growth cones of embryonic neurons influences axon growth. Voltage-gated K+ (Kv) channels are key factors in controlling membrane excitability, but whether they regulate axon growth remains unclear. Here, we report that Kv3.4 is expressed in the axonal growth cones of embryonic spinal commissural neurons, motoneurons, dorsal root ganglion neurons, retinal ganglion cells and callosal projection neurons during axon growth. Our in vitro (cultured dorsal spinal neurons of chick embryos) and in vivo (developing chick spinal commissural axons and rat callosal axons) findings demonstrate that knockdown of Kv3.4 by a specific shRNA impedes axon initiation, elongation, pathfinding, and fasciculation. In cultured dorsal spinal neurons, blockade of Kv3.4 by blood depressing substance II (BDSII) suppresses axon growth via an increase in the amplitude and frequency of Ca2+ influx through T-type and L-type Ca2+ channels. Electrophysiological results show that Kv3.4, the major Kv channel in the axonal growth cones of embryonic dorsal spinal neurons, is activated at more hyperpolarized potentials and inactivated more slowly than it is in postnatal and adult neurons. The opening of Kv3.4 channels effectively reduces growth cone membrane excitability, thereby limiting excessive Ca2+ influx at subthreshold potentials or during Ca2+-dependent action potentials. Furthermore, excessive Ca2+ influx induced by an optogenetic approach also inhibits axon growth. Our findings suggest that Kv3.4 reduces growth cone membrane excitability and maintains [Ca2+]i at an optimal concentration for normal axon growth.
Accumulating evidence supports the idea that impairments in axon growth contribute to many clinical disorders, such as autism spectrum disorders, corpus callosum agenesis, Joubert syndrome, Kallmann syndrome, and horizontal gaze palsy with progressive scoliosis. Membrane excitability in the growth cone, which is mainly controlled by voltage-gated Ca2+ (Cav) and K+ (Kv) channels, modulates axon growth. The role of Cav channels during axon growth is well understood, but it is unclear whether Kv channels control axon outgrowth by regulating Ca2+ influx. This report shows that Kv3.4, which is transiently expressed in the axonal growth cones of many types of embryonic neurons, acts to reduce excessive Ca2+ influx through Cav channels and thus permits normal axon outgrowth.
The authors declare no conflict of interest.
This work was supported by grants from Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST 101-2311-B-010-001, 101-2321-B-010-023, 102-2321-B-010-021, 103-2321-B-010-012 and 104-2320-B-010-010-MY3), Brain Research Center of National Yang-Ming University, and Ministry of Education - Aim for the Top University Plan. We thank Drs. Fu-Chin Liu, Shih-Yun Chen, Tzu-Jen Kao, Tsai-Wen Chen, Lung-Sen Kao, Hsu-Chen Cheng, Shen-Ju Chou, Jane Wu, Yu-Chao Liu, Han-Chi Pan and Tsan-Ting Hsu as well as Ai-Chu Lu and Gui-May Chen for technical supports.