Axon specification is morphologically reproducible in vitro, whereas dendrite formation differs in vitro and in vivo. Cortical neurons initially develop immature neurites, but in vivo these are eliminated concurrently with the formation of a leading process, the future dendrite. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying these neuronal maturation events remain unclear. Here we show that caveolin-1, a major component of caveolae that are never observed in neurons, regulates in vivo-specific steps of neuronal maturation. Caveolin-1 is predominantly expressed in immature cortical neurons and regulates clathrin-independent endocytosis. In vivo knockdown of caveolin-1 disturbs immature neurite pruning, leading process elongation, and subsequent neuronal migration. Importantly, N-cadherin and L1, which are required for immature neurite formation, undergo caveolin-1-mediated endocytosis to eliminate immature neurites. Collectively, our findings indicate that caveolin-1 regulates N-cadherin and L1 trafficking independent of caveolae, which contributes to spatiotemporally restricted cellular events; immature neurite pruning and leading process elongation during early neuronal maturation.
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