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Cell. 2005 Jan 14;120(1):123-35.

Both the establishment and the maintenance of neuronal polarity require active mechanisms: critical roles of GSK-3beta and its upstream regulators.

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Institute of Neuroscience, Shanghai Institutes of Biological Sciences, The Graduate School, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 320 Yueyang Road, Shanghai 200031, China.


Axon-dendrite polarity is a cardinal feature of neuronal morphology essential for information flow. Here we report a differential distribution of GSK-3beta activity in the axon versus the dendrites. A constitutively active GSK-3beta mutant inhibited axon formation, whereas multiple axons formed from a single neuron when GSK-3beta activity was reduced by pharmacological inhibitors, a peptide inhibitor, or siRNAs. An active mechanism for maintaining neuronal polarity was revealed by the conversion of preexisting dendrites into axons upon GSK-3 inhibition. Biochemical and functional data show that the Akt kinase and the PTEN phosphatase are upstream of GSK-3beta in determining neuronal polarity. Our results demonstrate that there are active mechanisms for maintaining as well as establishing neuronal polarity, indicate that GSK-3beta relays signaling from Akt and PTEN to play critical roles in neuronal polarity, and suggest that application of GSK-3beta inhibitors can be a novel approach to promote generation of new axons after neural injuries.

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