The Question
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          Proper functioning of the nervous system requires connections between neurons and their targets. Undifferentiated cells have to expand cylindrical extensions with a growth cone at a distal tip in a process called neurite outgrowth. This process, for all neurons, can be seen as three step event. First, original round shape is broken down to make an filopodia-like extension on cell surface; second, the extension elongates and it is transformed into neurite; and third, the neurite differentiates into an axon or a dendrite (Da Silva J.S. and Dotti C.G., 2002). Thus, cells undergo a dramatical change in their morphology from round (symmetric) to enormously extended (asymmetric) morphology. Regulation of neurite outgrowth is an important aspect not only for proper development of nervous system but for neuronal plasticity and regeneration after injury or neuropathological conditions as well.

          While a catalogue of structural, molecular and functional differences between axon and dendrite is accumulating, the mechanisms involved in establishment of neuronal polarity and growth are not well understood. How is the initial site on plasma membrane selected for the whole process to begin, what makes that site privileged on the molecular level and how the neurite grows are very exciting but yet unresolved questions. Furthermore, the precise knowledge of key players involved is still lacking. Without knowing what those molecules are, it would be difficult to come to a mechanistic understanding of the process. Genetic and biochemical approaches have been applied to identify and characterise single molecular components involved. It is, however, recognized that a more systematic approach to identify new molecules involved is needed in order to obtain complete molecular description underlying this complex process (Grant SG, 2004).

          The goal of the project was to identify known and novel proteins that participate in early events (neurite initiation and growth) of neurite outgrowth process, map them in different pathways and obtain a network of the proteins/pathways involved. This is an important step towards better understanding of complex molecular machinery that regulates neurite outgrowth.