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Neuron. 2011 May 12;70(3):441-54. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2011.03.022.

Mechanistic logic underlying the axonal transport of cytosolic proteins.

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Department of Neurosciences, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093, USA.


Proteins vital to presynaptic function are synthesized in the neuronal perikarya and delivered into synapses via two modes of axonal transport. While membrane-anchoring proteins are conveyed in fast axonal transport via motor-driven vesicles, cytosolic proteins travel in slow axonal transport via mechanisms that are poorly understood. We found that in cultured axons, populations of cytosolic proteins tagged to photoactivatable GFP (PAGFP) move with a slow motor-dependent anterograde bias distinct from both vesicular trafficking and diffusion of untagged PAGFP. The overall bias is likely generated by an intricate particle kinetics involving transient assembly and short-range vectorial spurts. In vivo biochemical studies reveal that cytosolic proteins are organized into higher order structures within axon-enriched fractions that are largely segregated from vesicles. Data-driven biophysical modeling best predicts a scenario where soluble molecules dynamically assemble into mobile supramolecular structures. We propose a model where cytosolic proteins are transported by dynamically assembling into multiprotein complexes that are directly/indirectly conveyed by motors.

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