• vagus nerve;
  • enteric nervous system;
  • laminin;
  • axon guidance;
  • gastrointestinal tract


Vagal sensory axons navigate to specific sites in the bowel during fetal life. Netrin/deleted in colorectal cancer (DCC) were found to mediate the attraction of vagal sensory axons to the fetal mouse gut. We tested the hypothesis that laminin-111 can reverse the chemoattractive effects of netrin and act as a stop signal for vagal sensory axons. Laminin-111-expressing cells were located in the E12 and E16 mouse bowel by in situ hybridization. At E12, these cells extended centrifugally from the endoderm; by E16, laminin-111 expressing cells were found in the mucosa and outer gut mesenchyme. A similar pattern was seen in preparations of E13 and E15 mouse gut labeled with antibodies to laminin. Application of DiI to nodose ganglia identified vagal sensory axons growing into the fetal bowel. These terminals were found to avoid concentrations of laminin or to terminate at laminin-delimited boundaries. Soluble laminin inhibited the preferential growth of nodose neurites toward netrin-secreting cells (p < 0.01). This effect was mimicked by a peptide, YIGSR, a sequence within the β1 chain of laminin-111 (p < 0.004) and antagonized by a peptide, IKVAV, a sequence within the α1 chain of laminin-111. Antibodies to β1-integrins were also able to reverse the inhibitive effects of laminin and restore the attraction of nodose neurites towards netrin-1-secreting cells. Soluble laminin inhibited the preferential growth of nodose neurites toward a cocultured explant of foregut. These findings suggest that laminin terminates the attraction of vagal sensory axons towards sources of netrin in the developing bowel. © 2008 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Develop Neurobiol, 2008