Little is known about how nerve growth factor (NGF) signaling controls the regulated assembly of microtubules that underlies axon growth. Here we demonstrate that a tightly regulated and localized activation of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) at the growth cone is essential for rapid axon growth induced by NGF. This spatially activated PI3K signaling is conveyed downstream through a localized inactivation of glycogen synthase kinase 3beta (GSK-3beta). These two spatially coupled kinases control axon growth via regulation of a microtubule plus end binding protein, adenomatous polyposis coli (APC). Our results demonstrate that NGF signals are transduced to the axon cytoskeleton via activation of a conserved cell polarity signaling pathway.
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