Directed outgrowth of neural processes must involve transmission of signals from the tips of filopodia to the central region of the growth cone. Here, we report on the distribution and dynamics of one possible element in this process, actin, in live growth cones which are reorienting in response to in situ guidance cues. In grasshopper embryonic limbs, pioneer growth cones respond to at least three types of guidance cues: a limb axis cue, intermediate target cells, and a circumferential band of epithelial cells. With time-lapse imaging of intracellularly injected rhodamine-phalloidin and rhodamine-actin, we monitored the distribution of actin during growth cone responses to these cues. In distal limb regions, accumulation of actin in filopodia and growth cone branches accompanies continued growth, while reduction of actin accompanies withdrawal. Where growth cones are reorienting to intermediate target cells, or along the circumferential epithelial band, actin selectively accumulates in the proximal regions of those filopodia that have contacted target cells or are extending along the band. Actin accumulations can be retrogradely transported along filopodia, and can extend into the central region of the growth cone. These results suggest that regulation and translocation of actin may be a significant element in growth cone steering.

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