Histochemistry and Cell Biology

, Volume 139, Issue 3, pp 431–445 | Cite as

Fast rearrangement of the neuronal growth cone’s actin cytoskeleton following VEGF stimulation

  • Laura Olbrich
  • Daniel Foehring
  • Patrick Happel
  • Beate Brand-Saberi
  • Carsten TheissEmail author
Original Paper


The neuronal growth cone plays a crucial role in the development of the nervous system. This highly motile structure leads the axon to its final destination by translating guidance cues into cytoskeletal rearrangements. Recently, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), which is essential for angiogenesis and vascular sprouting, has been found to exert a trophic activity also on neurons, leading to an increased axonal outgrowth, similar to the well-known nerve growth factor (NGF). The neurotrophic properties of VEGF are likely to be promoted via the VEGF receptor 2 (VEGFR-2) and neuropilin-1 (NRP-1). In the long term, VEGF attracts and influences the growth cone velocity and leads to growth cone enlargement. The present study focuses on immediate VEGF effects using RFP-actin and GFP-NF-M microinjected chicken dorsal root ganglia for live cell imaging of the neuronal growth cone. We analyzed actin and neurofilament dynamics following VEGF and NGF treatment and compared the effects. Furthermore, key signaling pathways of VEGF were investigated by specific blocking of VEGFR-2 or NRP-1. With the aid of confocal laser scanning microscopy and stimulated emission depletion microscopy, we show for the first time that VEGF has a quick effect on the actin-cytoskeleton, since actin rearrangements were identifiable within a few minutes, leading to a dramatically increased motion. Moreover, these effects were strongly enhanced by adding both VEGF and NGF. Most notably, the effects were inhibited by blocking VEGFR-2, therefore we propose that the immediate effects of VEGF on the actin-cytoskeleton are mediated through VEGFR-2.


Confocal laser scanning microscopy Actin VEGF NGF STED microscopy 



The authors gratefully thank FoRUM (RUB) for financial support (F670-2009). Mrs L. Olbrich especially thanks the Heinrich und Alma Vogelsang-Stiftung for financial support in line with a graduation-scholarship. The authors further acknowledge T. Nguyen, B. Menzel and A. Lodwig for excellent technical assistance as well as A. Lenz for secretarial work.

Supplementary material

Supplementary material 1 (MPG 1180 kb)

Supplementary material 2 (MPG 534 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Laura Olbrich
    • 1
  • Daniel Foehring
    • 1
  • Patrick Happel
    • 2
  • Beate Brand-Saberi
    • 1
  • Carsten Theiss
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Institute of Anatomy and Molecular Embryology, Faculty of MedicineRuhr-University BochumBochumGermany
  2. 2.Central Unit for Ionbeams and Radionuclides (RUBION)Ruhr-University BochumBochumGermany

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