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How neurons maintain their axons long-term: an integrated view of axon biology and pathology

Smith, Gaynor ORCID:, Sweeney, Sean T., O’Kane, Cahir J. and Prokop, Andreas 2023. How neurons maintain their axons long-term: an integrated view of axon biology and pathology. Frontiers in Neuroscience 17 , 1236815. 10.3389/fnins.2023.1236815

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Axons are processes of neurons, up to a metre long, that form the essential biological cables wiring nervous systems. They must survive, often far away from their cell bodies and up to a century in humans. This requires self-sufficient cell biology including structural proteins, organelles, and membrane trafficking, metabolic, signalling, translational, chaperone, and degradation machinery—all maintaining the homeostasis of energy, lipids, proteins, and signalling networks including reactive oxygen species and calcium. Axon maintenance also involves specialised cytoskeleton including the cortical actin-spectrin corset, and bundles of microtubules that provide the highways for motor-driven transport of components and organelles for virtually all the above-mentioned processes. Here, we aim to provide a conceptual overview of key aspects of axon biology and physiology, and the homeostatic networks they form. This homeostasis can be derailed, causing axonopathies through processes of ageing, trauma, poisoning, inflammation or genetic mutations. To illustrate which malfunctions of organelles or cell biological processes can lead to axonopathies, we focus on axonopathy-linked subcellular defects caused by genetic mutations. Based on these descriptions and backed up by our comprehensive data mining of genes linked to neural disorders, we describe the ‘dependency cycle of local axon homeostasis’ as an integrative model to explain why very different causes can trigger very similar axonopathies, providing new ideas that can drive the quest for strategies able to battle these devastating diseases.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Published Online
Status: Published
Schools: Medicine
Additional Information: License information from Publisher: LICENSE 1: URL:
Publisher: Frontiers Media
ISSN: 1662-4548
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 10 August 2023
Date of Acceptance: 6 July 2023
Last Modified: 08 Oct 2023 23:38

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