To receive information from neighbouring cells, neurons connect to each other with dendrites, forming an elaborate branching system known as the dendritic arbor. Developing this extensive network is difficult, as the dendrites must contact specific cells, and avoid interfering with each other. In addition, creating dendrites involves moving vast amounts of protein and membrane components around, a challenge in itself. Recent work on sensory neuron wiring in the nematode worm C. elegans, whose dendritic arbor is shown here, has revealed some of the mechanisms that make it possible. RAB-10, a small signalling molecule, was found to play a key role in determining the branching pattern of dendrites; it also enables their growth by regulating the activity of the proteins kinesin and dynein, 'molecular motors' which can move cargoes around the cell. This makes it a key component in this hugely complex process, crucial to the development of nervous systems.
Written by Emmanuelle Briolat
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