During brain development, billions of neuron nerve cells must find their accurate pathway in the brain in order to form trillions of neuronal circuits enabling us to enjoy cognitive, sensory and emotional wellbeing. To achieve this remarkable precision, migrating neurons use special protein receptors that sense the environment around them and guide the way so these neurons and their long extensions stay on the right path. Rare defects in these neuronal guidance proteins can result in severe neurological conditions such as ataxia and epilepsy.
In a new study published in Cell, Bar-Ilan University researchers report on their discovery of the molecular mechanism that allows the guidance receptor ‘Robo’ to react to signals in its environment.
One of the most important protein signalling systems that controls neuronal guidance consists of the cell surface receptor ‘Robo’ and its cognate external guidance cue ‘Slit’. The deficit of either of these proteins results in defects in brain structure and function. Slit and Robo are aberrantly expressed in cancer and targeting them is a promising therapeutic approach for pancreatic, skin and breast cancer.