The extracellular matrix through which growth cones navigate contains molecules, such as chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan, that can inhibit growth cone advance and induce branching and turning. Growth cone turning is accompanied by rearrangement of the cytoskeleton. To identify changes in the organization of actin filaments and microtubules that occur as growth cones turn, we used time-lapse phase contrast videomicroscopy to observe embryonic chick dorsal root ganglion neuronal growth cones at a substratum border between fibronectin and chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan, in the presence and absence of cytochalasin B. Growth cones were fixed and immunocytochemically labeled to identify actin filaments and dynamic and stable microtubules. Our results suggest that microtubules are rearranged within growth cones to accomplish turning to avoid chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan. Compared to growth cones migrating on fibronectin, turning growth cones were more narrow, and they contained dynamic microtubules that were closer to the leading edge and were more bundled. Cytochalasin B-treated growth cones sidestepped laterally along the border instead of turning, and in sidestepping growth cones, microtubules were not bundled and aligned. We conclude that actin filament bundles are required for microtubule reorientation and growth cone turning to avoid chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan.

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