Radial migration of cortical projection neurons is a prerequisite for shaping a distinct multilayered cerebral cortex during mammalian corticogenesis. Members of Rab GTPases family were reported to regulate radial migration. Here, in vivo conditional knockout or in utero knockdown (KD) of Rab23 in mice neocortex causes aberrant polarity and halted migration of cortical projection neurons. Further investigation of the underlying mechanism reveals down-regulation of N-cadherin in the Rab23-deficient neurons, which is a cell adhesion protein previously known to modulate radial migration. (Shikanai M, Nakajima K, Kawauchi T. 2011. N-cadherin regulates radial glial fiber-dependent migration of cortical locomoting neurons. Commun Integr Biol. 4:326–330.) Interestingly, pharmacological inhibition of extracellular signal-regulated kinases (ERK1/2) also decreases the expression of N-cadherin, implicating an upstream effect of ERK1/2 on N-cadherin and also suggesting a link between Rab23 and ERK1/2. Further biochemical studies show that silencing of Rab23 impedes activation of ERK1/2 via perturbed platelet-derived growth factor-alpha (PDGFRα) signaling. Restoration of the expression of Rab23 or N-cadherin in Rab23-KD neurons could reverse neuron migration defects, indicating that Rab23 modulates migration through N-cadherin. These studies suggest that cortical neuron migration is mediated by a molecular hierarchy downstream of Rab23 via N-cadherin.
- radial migration