Previous studies showed that the serine/threonine kinase Unc51.1 is one of the earliest genes in neuronal differentiation and is required for granule cell axon formation. To examine the mechanism of Unc51.1 regulation of axon extension, we have identified two direct binding partners. The first, SynGAP, a negative regulator of Ras, is expressed within axons and growth cones of developing granule cells. Overexpression of SynGAP blocks neurite outgrowth by a mechanism that involves Ras-like GTPase cascade. The second binding partner is a PDZ domain-containing scaffolding protein, Syntenin, that binds Rab5 GTPase, the activity of which is attenuated by SynGAP. Thus, our results demonstrate that the Unc51.1-containing protein complex governs axon formation via Ras-like GTPase signaling and through regulation of the Rab5-mediated endocytic pathways within developing axons.
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