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J Neurosci. 2016 Apr 27;36(17):4681-9. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2893-15.2016.

TMEM184b Promotes Axon Degeneration and Neuromuscular Junction Maintenance.

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Department of Basic Sciences, St. Louis College of Pharmacy, St. Louis, Missouri 63110, and
Department of Neurology.
Department of Genetics, and.
Department of Developmental Biology, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri 63110.


Complex nervous systems achieve proper connectivity during development and must maintain these connections throughout life. The processes of axon and synaptic maintenance and axon degeneration after injury are jointly controlled by a number of proteins within neurons, including ubiquitin ligases and mitogen activated protein kinases. However, our understanding of these molecular cascades is incomplete. Here we describe the phenotype resulting from mutation of TMEM184b, a protein identified in a screen for axon degeneration mediators. TMEM184b is highly expressed in the mouse nervous system and is found in recycling endosomes in neuronal cell bodies and axons. Disruption of TMEM184b expression results in prolonged maintenance of peripheral axons following nerve injury, demonstrating a role for TMEM184b in axon degeneration. In contrast to this protective phenotype in axons, uninjured mutant mice have anatomical and functional impairments in the peripheral nervous system. Loss of TMEM184b causes swellings at neuromuscular junctions that become more numerous with age, demonstrating that TMEM184b is critical for the maintenance of synaptic architecture. These swellings contain abnormal multivesicular structures similar to those seen in patients with neurodegenerative disorders. Mutant animals also show abnormal sensory terminal morphology. TMEM184b mutant animals are deficient on the inverted screen test, illustrating a role for TMEM184b in sensory-motor function. Overall, we have identified an important function for TMEM184b in peripheral nerve terminal structure, function, and the axon degeneration pathway.


Our work has identified both neuroprotective and neurodegenerative roles for a previously undescribed protein, TMEM184b. TMEM184b mutation causes delayed axon degeneration following peripheral nerve injury, indicating that it participates in the degeneration process. Simultaneously, TMEM184b mutation causes progressive structural abnormalities at neuromuscular synapses and swellings within sensory terminals, and animals with this mutation display profound weakness. Thus, TMEM184b is necessary for normal peripheral nerve terminal morphology and maintenance. Loss of TMEM184b results in accumulation of autophagosomal structures in vivo, fitting with emerging studies that have linked autophagy disruption and neurological disease. Our work recognizes TMEM184b as a new player in the maintenance of the nervous system.


autophagy; axon degeneration; intraepidermal nerve fibers; mouse; neuromuscular junction

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