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Neural Plasticity
Volume 2016, Article ID 3497901, 13 pages
Research Article

Increase in Growth Cone Size Correlates with Decrease in Neurite Growth Rate

1Department of Biological Sciences, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907, USA
2Bindley Bioscience Center, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907, USA
3Purdue Institute for Integrative Neuroscience, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907, USA

Received 3 February 2016; Accepted 3 April 2016

Academic Editor: Rajnish Chaturvedi

Copyright © 2016 Yuan Ren and Daniel M. Suter. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Several important discoveries in growth cone cell biology were made possible by the use of growth cones derived from cultured Aplysia bag cell neurons, including the characterization of the organization and dynamics of the cytoskeleton. The majority of these Aplysia studies focused on large growth cones induced by poly-L-lysine substrates at early stages in cell culture. Under these conditions, the growth cones are in a steady state with very little net advancement. Here, we offer a comprehensive cellular analysis of the motile behavior of Aplysia growth cones in culture beyond this pausing state. We found that average growth cone size decreased with cell culture time whereas average growth rate increased. This inverse correlation of growth rate and growth cone size was due to the occurrence of large growth cones with a peripheral domain larger than 100 μm2. The large pausing growth cones had central domains that were less consistently aligned with the direction of growth and could be converted into smaller, faster-growing growth cones by addition of a three-dimensional collagen gel. We conclude that the significant lateral expansion of lamellipodia and filopodia as observed during these culture conditions has a negative effect on neurite growth.