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J Neurochem. 2014 Apr;129(2):213-220. doi: 10.1111/jnc.12503. Epub 2013 Nov 19.

Structure meets function: actin filaments and myosin motors in the axon.

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University of Southern California Department of Biology 1050 Childs Way RRI 204b Los Angeles, CA 90089-2910 ph: 213-821-1266
Shriners Hospitals Pediatric Research Center, Temple University, Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, 2500 North Broad St, Philadelphia, PA 19140, ph: 215-926-9362
Contributed equally


This review focuses on recent advances in the understanding of the organization and roles of actin filaments, and associated myosin motor proteins, in regulating the structure and function of the axon shaft. 'Patches' of actin filaments have emerged as a major type of actin filament organization in axons. In the distal axon, patches function as precursors to the formation of filopodia and branches. At the axon initial segment, patches locally capture membranous organelles and contribute to polarized trafficking. The trapping function of patches at the initial segment can be ascribed to interactions with myosin motors, and likely also applies to patches in the more distal axon. Finally, submembranous rings of actin filaments were recently described in axons, which form an actin-spectrin cytoskeleton, likely contributing to the maintenance of axon integrity. Continued investigation into the roles of axonal actin filaments and myosins will shed light on fundamental aspects of the development, adult function and the repair of axons in the nervous system.


actin; axon; cytoskeleton; myosin; patches

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