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Branching mechanisms shaping dendrite architecture

Lanoue, Vanessa, Cooper, Helen M.
Developmental biology 2019 v.451 no.1 pp. 16-24
axons, dendrites, evolution, geometry, microfilaments, receptors, synapse
A neuron's contribution to the information flow within a neural circuit is governed by the structure of its dendritic arbor. The geometry of the dendritic arbor directly determines synaptic density and the size of the receptive field, both of which influence the firing pattern of the neuron. Importantly, the position of individual dendritic branches determines the identity of the neuron's presynaptic partner and thus the nature of the incoming sensory information. To generate the unique stereotypic architecture of a given neuronal subtype, nascent branches must emerge from the dendritic shaft at preprogramed branch points. Subsequently, a complex array of extrinsic factors regulates the degree and orientation of branch expansion to ensure maximum coverage of the receptive field whilst constraining growth within predetermined territories. In this review we focus on studies that best illustrate how environmental cues such as the Wnts and Netrins and their receptors sculpt the dendritic arbor. We emphasize the pivotal role played by the actin cytoskeleton and its upstream regulators in branch initiation, outgrowth and navigation. Finally, we discuss how protocadherin and DSCAM contact-mediated repulsion prevents inappropriate synapse formation between sister dendrites or dendrites and the axon from the same neuron. Together these studies highlight the clever ways evolution has solved the problem of constructing complex branch geometries.