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Mol Biol Cell. 2004 Sep;15(9):4215-25. Epub 2004 Jun 23.

Arrival, reversal, and departure of neurofilaments at the tips of growing axons.

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Center for Molecular Neurobiology and Department of Neuroscience, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210, USA.


We have investigated the movement of green fluorescent protein-tagged neurofilaments at the distal ends of growing axons by using time-lapse fluorescence imaging. The filaments moved in a rapid, infrequent, and asynchronous manner in either an anterograde or retrograde direction (60% anterograde, 40% retrograde). Most of the anterograde filaments entered the growth cone and most of the retrograde filaments originated in the growth cone. In a small number of cases we were able to observe neurofilaments reverse direction, and all of these reversals occurred in or close to the growth cone. We conclude that neurofilament polymers are delivered rapidly and infrequently to the tips of growing axons and that some of these polymers reverse direction in the growth cone and move back into the axon. We propose that 1) growth cones are a preferential site of neurofilament reversal in distal axons, 2) most retrograde neurofilaments in distal axons originate by reversal of anterograde filaments in the growth cone, 3) those anterograde filaments that do not reverse direction are recruited to form the neurofilament cytoskeleton of the newly forming axon, and 4) the net delivery of neurofilament polymers to growth cones may be controlled by regulating the reversal frequency.

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