Localized calcium influx orients axon formation in embryonic hippocampal pyramidal neurons

Mark P. Mattson, Michelle Murain, Peter B. Guthrie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


A fundamental property of neurons is their polarization into distinct axonal and dendritic compartments which have characteristic structural and functional properties. The mechanisms regulating the formation of neuronal polarity are unknown. We used cultured embryonic rat hippocampal pyramidal neurons to test the hypothesis that a localized calcium influx can orient axon formation, and thereby direct the establishment of neuronal polarity. Transection of an initial axon, or focal application of A23187 or K+ to the initial axon, caused a new axon to form at a site distant from the initial axon. Fura-2 measurements of intracellular calcium revealed a localized calcium influx at the site of axon transection or focal application of A23187 or K+, and a calcium gradient spreading into the soma. New axon formation was inhibited when axons were transected in medium lacking calcium or containing calcium-elevating agents (conditions which prevented the formation of a calcium gradient). When calcium ionophore A23187 was applied focally to neurons which had not yet established an axon, the axon always formed at a site distant from the site of ionophore application; bath exposure to A23187 prevented axon formation. Taken together, these data demonstrate that a localized influx of calcium can suppress axon formation at the site of influx, and can thereby influence where the axon forms. These data suggest that gradients of intracellular calcium may be involved in orienting neuronal polarity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)201-209
Number of pages9
JournalDevelopmental Brain Research
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Mar 1 1990
Externally publishedYes


  • Axogenesis
  • Cell culture
  • Dendrite
  • Fura-2
  • Intracellular calcium
  • Neuronal polarity
  • Plasticity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental Biology
  • Developmental Neuroscience


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