Src-dependent tyrosine phosphorylation at the tips of growth cone filopodia promotes extension.
Several types of evidence suggest that protein-tyrosine phosphorylation is important during the growth of neuronal processes, but few specific roles, or subcellular localizations suggestive of such roles, have been defined. We report here a localization of tyrosine-phosphorylated protein at the tips of growth cone filopodia. Immunocytochemistry using a mAb to phosphorylated tyrosine residues revealed intense staining of the tips of most filopodia of Aplysia axons growing slowly on a polylysine substrate, but of few filopodia of axons growing rapidly on a substrate coated with Aplysia hemolymph, which has growth-promoting material. Cytochalasin D, which causes F-actin to withdraw rapidly from the growth cone, caused the tyrosine-phosphorylated protein to withdraw rapidly from filopodia, suggesting that the protein associates or interacts with actin filaments. Phosphotyrosine has previously been found concentrated at adherens junctions, where bundles of actin filaments terminate, but video-enhanced contrast-differential interference contrast and confocal interference reflection microscopy demonstrated that the filopodial tips were not adherent to the substrate. Acute application of either hemolymph or inhibitors of protein-tyrosine kinases to neurons on polylysine resulted in a rapid loss of intense staining at filopodial tips concomitant with a lengthening of the filopodia (and their core bundles of actin filaments). These results demonstrate that tyrosine-phosphorylated protein can be concentrated at the barbed ends of actin filaments in a context other than an adherens junction, indicate an association between changes in phosphorylation and filament dynamics, and provide evidence for tyrosine phosphorylation as a signaling mechanism in the filopodium that can respond to environmental cues controlling growth cone dynamics.