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Curr Biol. 2004 Apr 20;14(8):725-30.

Quantitative analysis of microtubule transport in growing nerve processes.

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Department of Physiology and Biophysics, M/C 901, University of Illinois at Chicago, 835 South Wolcott Avenue, Chicago, IL 60612, USA.


In neurons, tubulin is synthesized primarily in the cell body, whereas the molecular machinery for neurite extension and elaboration of microtubule (MT) array is localized to the growth cone region. This unique functional and biochemical compartmentalization of neuronal cells requires transport mechanisms for the delivery of newly synthesized tubulin and other cytoplasmic components from the cell body to the growing axon. According to the polymer transport model, tubulin is transported along the axon as a polymer. Because the majority of axonal MTs are stationary at any given moment, it has been assumed that only a small fraction of MTs translocates along the axon by saltatory movement reminiscent of the fast axonal transport. Such intermittent "stop and go" MT transport has been difficult to detect or to exclude by using direct video microscopy methods. In this study, we measured the translocation of MT plus ends in the axonal shaft by expressing GFP-EB1 in Xenopus embryo neurons in culture. Formal quantitative analysis of MT assembly/disassembly indicated that none of the MTs in the axonal shaft were rapidly transported. Our results suggest that transport of axonal MTs is not required for delivery of newly synthesized tubulin to the growing nerve processes.

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