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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Aug 12;105(32):11370-5. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0805199105. Epub 2008 Aug 5.

Polarized microtubule arrays in apical dendrites and axons.

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School of Applied and Engineering Physics, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA.


The polarization of microtubules within neurons in vivo is crucial in their role of determining the directions and speeds of intracellular transport. More than a decade ago, electron microscopy studies of mature hippocampal cultures indicated that their axons contained microtubules of uniform polarity and that dendrites contained microtubules of mixed polarity. Here, we evaluated polarity distributions in native brain tissues and in cultures by using multiphoton microscopy and second-harmonic generation from microtubules. We confirmed the expected polarized microtubule arrays in axons; however, we also unexpectedly found them ubiquitously in apical dendrites of mature hippocampal CA1 and cortical layer V pyramidal neurons. Some of these organized dendritic microtubule arrays extended for >270 microm with overall polarity of >80%. Our research indicates neurite-specific and age-dependent microtubule organizations that have direct implications for neuronal cargo transport.

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