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Int Rev Cytol. 1996;165:235-96.

Cytoplasmic mechanisms of axonal and dendritic growth in neurons.

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Department of Physiology, Michigan State University, East Lansing 48824-1101, USA.


The structural mechanisms responsible for the gradual elaboration of the cytoplasmic elongation of neurons are reviewed. In addition to discussing recent work, important older work is included to inform newcomers to the field how the current perspective arose. The highly specialized axon and the less exaggerated dendrite both result from the advance of the motile growth cone. In the area of physiology, studies in the last decade have directly confirmed the classic model of the growth cone pulling forward and the axon elongating from this tension. Particularly in the case of the axon, cytoplasmic elongation is closely linked to the formation of an axial microtubule bundle from behind the advancing growth cone. Substantial progress has been made in understanding the expression of microtubule-associated proteins during neuronal differentiation to stiffen and stabilize axonal microtubules, providing specialized structural support. Studies of membrane organelle transport along the axonal microtubules produced an explosion of knowledge about ATPase molecules serving as motors driving material along microtubule rails. However, most aspects of the cytoplasmic mechanisms responsible for neurogenesis remain poorly understood. There is little agreement on mechanisms for the addition of new plasma membrane or the addition of new cytoskeletal filaments in the growing axon. Also poorly understood are the mechanisms that couple the promiscuous motility of the growth cone to the addition of cytoplasmic elements.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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