Axonal transport of neurofilaments in normal and disease states

Cell Mol Life Sci. 2002 Feb;59(2):323-30. doi: 10.1007/s00018-002-8425-7.


Neurofilaments are among the most abundant organelles in neurones. They are synthesised in cell bodies and then transported into and through axons by a process termed 'slow axonal transport' at a rate that is distinct from that driven by conventional fast motors. Several recent studies have now demonstrated that this slow rate of transport is actually the consequence of conventional fast rates of movement that are interrupted by extended pausing. At any one time, most neurofilaments are thus stationary. Accumulations of neurofilaments are a pathological feature of several human neurodegenerative diseases suggesting that neurofilament transport is disrupted in disease states. Here, we review recent advances in our understanding of neurofilament transport in both normal and disease states. Increasing evidence suggests that phosphorylation of neurofilaments is a mechanism for regulating their transport properties, possibly by promoting their detachment from the motor(s). In some neurodegenerative diseases, signal transduction mechanisms involving neurofilament kinases and phosphatases may be perturbed leading to disruption of transport.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Axonal Transport*
  • Humans
  • Intermediate Filaments / metabolism*
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / metabolism*
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Neurons / ultrastructure
  • Phosphorylation