Mechanisms of trafficking in axons and dendrites: Implications for development and neurodegeneration

Michael P. Sheetz, K. Kevin Pfister, J. Chloe Bulinski, Carl W. Cotman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


In the area of routing and sorting of dendritic traffic, the current phenomenological data beg questions about the cellular mechanisms utilized not only to transport material but also to modulate activity in a process, even apoptosis. To aid in formulating testable hypotheses, many plausible models are developed here and linked with some of the preliminary data that supports them. We first assume that in long dendrites the sorting of membranous proteins into transport vesicles also involves the linkage of motor proteins to the vesicles. Second, we assume that the cytoskeleton in dendrites is altered from the cytoskeleton in axons and the cell body. Viral glycoproteins, MAP2 and specific mRNA sorting into dendrites provide the simplest models for analyzing vesicular, cytoskeletal and RNA sorting. In the case of vital glycoproteins, initial sorting appears to occur at the Golgi but additional routing steps involve further complexities that could best be served by an additional sorting step at the junction of the cell body and the process. Transport of the specialized cytoskeletal proteins and specific mRNAs as well as vesicular material could be controlled by a similar gatekeeper at the mouth of a process. Studies of the microtubule-organelle motor complex, regulation of microtubule-based motility by microtubule- associated proteins, and slow axonal transport all provide insights into important aspects of the routing and sorting. These processes are in turn controlled by extracellular signals such as those generated by matrix molecules or their hydrolysis products in the case of amyloid precursor protein (APP). Routing and sorting mechanisms may be central to the development of Alzheimer's disease in view of evidence that APP processing is affected, transport is disturbed, and intracellular vesicles (early endosomes) hypertrophied. Further it is possible that routing mechanisms play a role in cell-cell interactions as, for example, the posibility that pathogenic/cellular stress signals may be passed alone circuits transsynaptically.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)577-594
Number of pages18
JournalProgress in Neurobiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Aug 1 1998
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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