Commissural neurons in the mammalian dorsal spinal cord send axons ventrally toward the floor plate, where they cross the midline and turn anteriorly toward the brain; a gradient of chemoattractant(s) inside the spinal cord controls this turning. In rodents, several Wnt proteins stimulate the extension of commissural axons after midline crossing (postcrossing). We found that Wnt4 messenger RNA is expressed in a decreasing anterior-to-posterior gradient in the floor plate, and that a directed source of Wnt4 protein attracted postcrossing commissural axons. Commissural axons in mice lacking the Wnt receptor Frizzled3 displayed anterior-posterior guidance defects after midline crossing. Thus, Wnt-Frizzled signaling guides commissural axons along the anterior-posterior axis of the spinal cord.
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