We investigated the influence of the growth surface on the direction of Xenopus spinal neurite growth in the presence of a dc electric field of physiological magnitude. The direction of galvanotropism was determined by the substratum; neurites grew toward the negative electrode (cathode) on untreated Falcon tissue culture plastic or on laminin substrata, which are negatively charged, but neurites growing on polylysine, which is positively charged, turned toward the positive electrode (anode). Growth was oriented randomly on all substrata without an electric field. We tested the hypothesis that the charge of the growth surface was responsible for reversed galvanotropism on polylysine by growing neurons on tissue culture dishes with different net surface charges. Although neurites grew cathodally on both Plastek substrata, the frequency of anodal turning was greater on dishes with a net positive charge (Plastek C) than on those with a net negative charge (Plastek M). The charge of the growth surface therefore influenced the frequency of anodal galvanotropism but a reversal in surface charge was insufficient to reverse galvanotropism completely, possibly because of differences in the relative magnitude of the substratum charge densities. The influence of substratum adhesion on galvanotropism was considered by growing neurites on a range of polylysine concentrations. Growth cone to substratum adhesivity was measured using a blasting assay. Adhesivity and the frequency of anodal turning were graded over the range of polylysine concentrations (0 = 0.1 < 1 < 10 = 100 μg/ml). The direction of neurite growth in an electric field is therefore influenced by both substratum charge and growth cone-to- substratum adhesivity. These data are consistent with the idea that spatial or temporal variation in the expression of adhesion molecules in embryos may interact with naturally occurring electric fields to enhance growth cone pathfinding.
- Electric field