Developing neurons must migrate relatively long distances in the brain to reach their destinations. To do so, they move through tubes made up of support cells called astrocytes. Researchers now report that the neurons release a signalling molecule to control the formation and maintenance of these 'tunnels'.
Kazunobu Sawamoto at Nagoya City University in Japan and his colleagues studied neuronal movement in the brain tissue of mice in which the gene for a protein called SLIT1 had been deleted. They noticed slowed neuronal migration. The team also found that the receptors for SLIT1 were expressed in astrocytes and were also required for proper movement. The interaction of SLIT1 with its receptors resulted in a change in the astrocytes' shape and organization, leading to faster neuronal migration.