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J Neurochem. 2006 Sep;98(5):1345-52. Epub 2006 Jun 19.

Intrinsic and extrinsic determinants of ion channel localization in neurons.

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Department of Neuroscience, University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington, Connecticut 06030, USA.


Neurons are an extremely diverse group of excitable cells with a wide variety of morphologies including complex dendritic trees and very long axons. The electrical properties of neurons depend not only on the types of ion channels and receptors expressed, but also on where these channels are located in the cell. Two extreme examples that illustrate the subcellular polarized nature of neurons and the tight regulation of ion channel localization can be seen at the axon initial segment and the node of Ranvier. The axon initial segment is important for initiation of action potentials in the axon, whereas the node of Ranvier is required for the rapid, faithful and efficient propagation of action potentials along the axon. Given the similarity of their functions it is not surprising that nearly every protein component of the axon initial segment is also found at the node. However, there is one very important difference between these two sites: nodes require extrinsic, glial-derived factors in order to form, whereas the axon initial segment is intrinsically determined by the neuron. This mini-review discusses recent results that have begun to clarify the intrinsic and extrinsic mechanisms underlying formation of nodes and axon initial segments, and poses several important unanswered questions regarding their unique mechanisms of formation.

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