Direct binding of netrin receptors with dynamic microtubules (MTs) in the neuronal growth cone plays an important role in netrin-mediated axon guidance. However, how netrin-1 (NTN1) regulates MT dynamics in axon turning remains a major unanswered question. Here, we show that the coupling of netrin-1 receptor DCC with tau (MAPT)-regulated MTs is involved in netrin-1-promoted axon attraction. Tau directly interacts with DCC and partially overlaps with DCC in the growth cone of primary neurons. Netrin-1 induces this interaction and the colocalization of DCC and tau in the growth cone. The netrin-1-induced interaction of tau with DCC relies on MT dynamics and TUBB3, a highly dynamic β-tubulin isotype in developing neurons. Netrin-1 increased cosedimentation of DCC with tau and TUBB3 in MTs, and knockdown of either tau or TUBB3 mutually blocked this effect. Downregulation of endogenous tau levels by tau shRNAs inhibited netrin-1-induced axon outgrowth, branching and commissural axon attraction in vitro, and led to defects in spinal commissural axon projection in vivo. These findings suggest that tau is a key MT-associated protein coupling DCC with MT dynamics in netrin-1-promoted axon attraction.

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