Growth of intact axons of noninjured neurons, often termed collateral sprouting, contributes to both adaptive and pathological plasticity in the adult nervous system, but the intracellular factors controlling this growth are largely unknown. An automated functional assay of genes regulated in sensory neurons from the rat in vivo spared dermatome model of collateral sprouting identified the adaptor protein CD2-associated protein (CD2AP; human CMS) as a positive regulator of axon growth. In non-neuronal cells, CD2AP, like other adaptor proteins, functions to selectively control the spatial/temporal assembly of multiprotein complexes that transmit intracellular signals. Although CD2AP polymorphisms are associated with increased risk of late-onset Alzheimer's disease, its role in axon growth is unknown. Assessments of neurite arbor structure in vitro revealed CD2AP overexpression, and siRNA-mediated knockdown, modulated (1) neurite length, (2) neurite complexity, and (3) growth cone filopodia number, in accordance with CD2AP expression levels. We show, for the first time, that CD2AP forms a novel multiprotein complex with the NGF receptor TrkA and the PI3K regulatory subunit p85, with the degree of TrkA:p85 association positively regulated by CD2AP levels. CD2AP also regulates NGF signaling through AKT, but not ERK, and regulates long-range signaling though TrkA(+)/RAB5(+) signaling endosomes. CD2AP mRNA and protein levels were increased in neurons during collateral sprouting but decreased following injury, suggesting that, although typically considered together, these two adult axonal growth processes are fundamentally different. These data position CD2AP as a major intracellular signaling molecule coordinating NGF signaling to regulate collateral sprouting and structural plasticity of intact adult axons.
Growth of noninjured axons in the adult nervous system contributes to adaptive and maladaptive plasticity, and dysfunction of this process may contribute to neurologic pathologies. Functional screening of genes regulated during growth of noninjured axons revealed CD2AP as a positive regulator of axon outgrowth. A novel association of CD2AP with TrkA and p85 suggests a distinct intracellular signaling pathway regulating growth of noninjured axons. This may also represent a novel mechanism of generating specificity in multifunctional NGF signaling. Divergent regulation of CD2AP in different axon growth conditions suggests that separate mechanisms exist for different modes of axon growth. CD2AP is the first signaling molecule associated with adult sensory axonal collateral sprouting, and this association may offer new insights for NGF/TrkA-related Alzheimer's disease mechanisms.