Differentiating neurons must acquire many unique morphological and functional characteristics in creating the precise neural circuits of the mature nervous system. The phenomenon of 'neuronal differentiation' includes a special set of simple, separate processes, that is, neuritogenesis, neurite outgrowth, pathfinding, targeting and synaptogenesis. All of these processes are critically dependent on the reorganization of actin cytoskeleton by many actin-binding proteins that function downstream of Rho-family GTPases. Furthermore, de novo synthesis of key proteins are critically involved in the reorganization of actin cytoskeleton during neuronal differentiation. In this article, we review recent progresses in the general mechanisms that control actin dynamics by various actin-binding proteins in differentiating neurons, including a series of recent studies from our laboratory on de novo synthesis of several key proteins that are essential for actin reorganization induced by second messengers. We demonstrated that dual regulation of cyclic AMP and Ca2+ determines cofilin (an actin-binding protein) phosphorylation states and LIM kinase 1 (a cofilin kinase) expression level during neuritogenesis.
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