Nerve cells (neurons) often extend long distances inside the body. As they develop, parts of them migrate from one place to another. The facial branchiomotor neurons (FBMNs) form part of the brainstem, and while developing they travel downwards in a large group. Migrating neurons are guided by signals from each other and surrounding cells. Scientists recently found that Cadherin-2, a molecule found on the surface of cells, is essential for these signals. The Cadherin-2 on neighbouring cells connects, allowing them to communicate. Individual FBMNs that have a malfunctioning variant of Cadherin-2 don’t migrate to the correct place, even if all the surrounding cells have working copies. Pictured are FBMNs in a fish’s brain with (green) and without (red) working Cadherin-2. While the neurons with functioning Cadherin-2 have migrated correctly, those without have gone in random directions. This helps us understand how neurons grow correctly.
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