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J Neurobiol. 2004 Feb 5;58(2):295-314.

Axonal transport and neuronal transcytosis of trophic factors, tracers, and pathogens.

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Department of Physiology and Cell Biology, University of Nevada School of Medicine, Reno, Nevada 89557, USA.


Neurons can specifically internalize macromolecules, such as trophic factors, lectins, toxins, and other pathogens. Upon internalization in terminals, proteins can move retrogradely along axons, or, upon internalization at somatodendritic domains, they can move into an anterograde axonal transport pathway. Release of internalized proteins from neurons after either retrograde or anterograde axonal transport results in transcytosis and trafficking of proteins across multiple synapses. Recent studies of binding properties of several such proteins suggest that pathogens and lectins may utilize existing transport machineries designed for trafficking of trophic factors. Specific pathways may protect trophic factors, pathogens, and toxins from degradation after internalization and may target the trophic or pathogenic cargo for transcytosis after either retrograde or anterograde transport along axons. Elucidating the molecular mechanisms of sorting steps and transport pathways will further our understanding of trophic signaling and could be relevant for an understanding and possible treatment of neurological diseases such as rabies, Alzheimer's disease, and prion encephalopathies. At present, our knowledge is remarkably sparse about the types of receptors used by pathogens for trafficking, the signals that sort trophins or pathogens into recycling or degradation pathways, and the mechanisms that regulate their release from somatodendritic domains or axon terminals. This review intends to draw attention to potential convergences and parallels in trafficking of trophic and pathogenic proteins. It discusses axonal transport/trafficking mechanisms that may help to understand and eventually treat neurological diseases by targeted drug delivery.

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