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Neuron. 2003 Oct 9;40(2):277-95.

Neuronal polarity and trafficking.

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Department of Neurobiology, Duke University Medical Center, Box 3209, Durham, NC 27710, USA.


Among the most morphologically complex cells, neurons are masters of membrane specialization. Nowhere is this more striking than in the division of cellular labor between the axon and the dendrites. In morphology, signaling properties, cytoskeletal organization, and physiological function, axons and dendrites (or more properly, the somatodendritic compartment) are radically different. Such polarization of neurons into domains specialized for either receiving (dendrites) or transmitting (axons) cellular signals provides the underpinning for all neural circuitry. The initial specification of axonal and dendritic identity occurs early in neuronal life, persists for decades, and is manifested by the presence of very different sets of cell surface proteins. Yet, how neuronal polarity is established, how distinct axonal and somatodendritic domains are maintained, and how integral membrane proteins are directed to dendrites or accumulate in axons remain enduring and formidable questions in neuronal cell biology.

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