Axon guidance / axon pathfinding is the process by which neurons send out axons to reach the correct targets. Growing axons have a highly motile structure at the growing tip called the growth cone, which senses the guidance cues in the environment through guidance cue receptors and responds by undergoing cytoskeletal changes that determine the direction of axon growth.
Guidance cues present in the surrounding environment provide the necessary directional information for the trip. These extrinsic cues have been divided into attractive or repulsive signals that tell the growth cone where and where not to grow.
Genetic and biochemical studies have led to the identification of highly conserved families of guidance molecules and their receptors that guide axons. These include netrins, Slits, semaphorins, and ephrins, and their cognate receptors, DCC and or uncoordinated-5 (UNC5), roundabouts (Robo), neuropilin and Eph. In addition, many other classes of adhesion molecules are also used by growth cones to navigate properly which include NCAM and L1CAM.
For review of axon guidance, please refer to Russel and Bashaw 2018, Chedotal 2019, Suter and Jaworski 2019).
Axon guidance cues and their receptors are implicated in cancer progression (Biankin et al. 2012), where they likely contribute to cell migration and angiogenesis (reviewed by Mehlen et al. 2011).