In order for the nervous system to function properly, neurons in the brain must establish specific connections during embryonic development. Formation of neuronal circuits involves axons extending from cell bodies and navigating through diverse tissues to reach their targets in the brain. Once axons reach their target tissues, they arborize and make synaptic connections. Axon pathfinding is driven by dynamic motility behaviors expressed by terminal growth cones at the tips of the axons. Here, we applied morphometrics to determine quantitative values for six morphological and motility parameters for growth cones of optic axons navigating through the optic tract of a living brain preparation from a Xenopus laevis tadpole. Our results demonstrate an increase in length, decrease in width, increase in perimeter, decrease in area, increase in number of filopodia, and a decrease in number of lamellipodia, of the growth cones in the optic tract. Therefore, optic axonal growth cones become less circular and more elongated and protrusive during their navigation through the optic tract. Quantitatively deconstructing parameters of growth cone motility is necessary to determine molecular, cellular, and biophysical mechanisms of axon pathfinding, and to formulate computational analyses of developing neuronal connectivity in the brain.
Sohal, A., Ha, J., Zhu, M., Lakhani, F., Olszewski, L., Mohanakrishnan, R., . . . Elul, T. (2017). Morphometrics in developmental neurobiology: Quantitative analysis of growth cone motility in vivo. In P. M. Pares-Casanova (Ed.), New insights into morphometry studies (pp. 31-45). Rijeka, Croatia: IN TECH.