Neuropilin-1 (NP-1) has been identified as a necessary component of a semaphorin D (SemD) receptor that repulses dorsal root ganglion (DRG) axons during development. SemA and SemE are related to SemD and bind to NP-1, but do not repulse DRG axons. By expressing NP-1 in retinal neurons and NP-2 in DRG neurons, we demonstrate that neuropilins are sufficient to determine the functional specificity of semaphorin responsiveness. SemA and SemE block SemD binding to NP-1 and abolish SemD repulsion in axons expressing NP-1. SemA and SemE seem to have a newly discovered protein antagonist capacity at NP-1 receptors, whereas they act as agonists at receptors containing NP-2.
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