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Neurons – Where polarity is crucial

Improper neuron morphology can affect brain function and cause disorders. EU-funded researchers investigated the underlying microtubule dynamics involved in neuronal polarisation, a critical process for normal neuronal function and regeneration.
Neurons – Where polarity is crucial
Neurons are highly polarised cells that have an axon and dendrites, which have different shape, function and composition. Changes in neuronal polarity cause developmental and neurodegenerative diseases through impaired brain function.

Recently, researchers discovered that microtubule dynamics and organisation are key for acquisition and maintenance of neuronal polarity. Axons have uniform microtubules unlike dendrites with mixed microtubule polarity. However, the underlying cellular mechanisms are yet to be elucidated.

The MTSAXONREGENERATION (Microtubule dynamics and neuronal cargo trafficking during dendrite to axon switching) project was initiated to understand how dendrite to axon conversion takes place via polarisation. More specifically, they investigated the role of microtubules and microtubule-associated proteins such as +TIPs, dyneins and Rho-GTPases.

Scientists successfully characterised microtubule re-orientation and dynamics in rat hippocampal neurons during conversion of dendrites into axon. They also screened different microtubule-associated proteins to identify those involved in this conversion process. A key accomplishment is the correlation of axon re-specification events with processes occurring during initial polarisation stages.

Project outcomes should help elucidate key microtubule dynamics required for neuronal polarity and axonal regeneration. Microtubule manipulation could be used to design innovative regenerative treatments to repair injured neurons in trauma cases or affected neurons in neurodegenerative diseases.

Related information


Neuron morphology, brain function, microtubule dynamics, neuronal polarisation, dendrite to axon switching
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