Neuropilin is a receptor for the axonal chemorepellent semaphorin III.
Extending axons in the developing nervous system are guided to their targets through the coordinate actions of attractive and repulsive guidance cues. The semaphorin family of guidance cues comprises several members that can function as diffusible axonal chemorepellents. To begin to elucidate the mechanisms that mediate the repulsive actions of Collapsin-1/Semaphorin III/D (Sema III), we searched for Sema III-binding proteins in embryonic rat sensory neurons by expression cloning. We report that Sema III binds with high affinity to the transmembrane protein neuropilin, and that antibodies to neuropilin block the ability of Sema III to repel sensory axons and to induce collapse of their growth cones. These results provide evidence that neuropilin is a receptor or a component of a receptor complex that mediates the effects of Sema III on these axons.