The synthesis and transport of lipids for axonal growth and nerve regeneration

Biochim Biophys Acta. 2000 Jun 26;1486(1):84-96. doi: 10.1016/s1388-1981(00)00050-0.


Neurons are unique polarized cells in which the growing axon is often located up to a meter or more from the cell body. Consequently, the intracellular movement of membrane lipids and proteins between cell bodies and axons poses a special challenge. The mechanisms of lipid transport within neurons are, for the most part, unknown although lipid transport via vesicles and via cholesterol- and sphingolipid-rich 'rafts' are considered likely mechanisms. Very active anterograde and retrograde transport of lipid-containing vesicles occurs between the cell body and distal axons. However, it is becoming clear that the axon need not obtain all of its membrane constituents from the cell body. For example, the synthesis of phosphatidylcholine, the major membrane phospholipid, occurs in axons, and its synthesis at this location is required for axonal elongation. In contrast, cholesterol synthesis appears to occur only in cell bodies, and cholesterol is efficiently delivered from cell bodies to axons by anterograde transport. Cholesterol that is required for axonal growth can also be exogenously supplied from lipoproteins to axons of cultured neurons. Several studies have suggested a role for apolipoprotein E in lipid delivery for growth and regeneration of axons after a nerve injury. Alternatively, or in addition, apolipoprotein E has been proposed to be a ligand for receptors that mediate signal transduction cascades. Lipids are also transported from axons to myelin, although the importance of this process for myelination is not clear.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apolipoproteins E / metabolism
  • Axons / metabolism*
  • Axons / physiology
  • Biological Transport
  • Cell Culture Techniques
  • Cholesterol / biosynthesis
  • Humans
  • Lipid Metabolism*
  • Lipids / biosynthesis
  • Lipoproteins / metabolism
  • Myelin Sheath / metabolism
  • Nerve Regeneration
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Phosphatidylcholines / biosynthesis
  • Second Messenger Systems


  • Apolipoproteins E
  • Lipids
  • Lipoproteins
  • Phosphatidylcholines
  • Cholesterol