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Trends Cell Biol. 2001 Jun;11(6):244-9.

Force generation by cytoskeletal motor proteins as a regulator of axonal elongation and retraction.

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Dept of Neurobiology and Anatomy, MCP Hahnemann University, 2900 Queen Lane, Philadelphia, PA 19129, USA.


Axons elongate and retract in response to environmental signals during the development of the nervous system. There is broad agreement that these signals must affect the cytoskeleton to elicit bouts of elongation or retraction. Most contemporary studies have speculated that bouts of elongation involve polymerization of the cytoskeleton whereas bouts of retraction involve depolymerization of the cytoskeleton. Here we present an alternative view, namely that molecular motor proteins generate forces on the cytoskeletal polymers that can affect their distribution and configuration. In this view, bouts of axonal elongation involve net forward movement of cytoskeletal elements whereas bouts of retraction involve net backward movements. We propose that environmental cues elicit bouts of elongation or retraction via biochemical pathways that modulate the activities of relevant motors.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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