Actin cytoskeleton regulation in neuronal morphogenesis and structural plasticity

Annu Rev Cell Dev Biol. 2002;18:601-35. doi: 10.1146/annurev.cellbio.18.031802.150501. Epub 2002 Apr 2.


The actin cytoskeleton plays a major role in morphological development of neurons and in structural changes of adult neurons. This article reviews the myriad functions of actin and myosin in axon initiation, growth, guidance and branching, in morphogenesis of dendrites and dendritic spines, in synapse formation and stability, and in axon and dendrite retraction. Evidence is presented that signaling pathways involving the Rho family of small GTPases are key regulators of actin polymerization and myosin function in the context of different aspects of neuronal morphogenesis. These studies support an emerging theme: Different aspects of neuronal morphogenesis may involve regulation of common core signaling pathways, in particular the Rho GTPases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Actins / biosynthesis*
  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology*
  • Cytoskeleton / metabolism*
  • Dendrites / metabolism
  • Dendrites / ultrastructure
  • Growth Cones / metabolism
  • Growth Cones / ultrastructure
  • Humans
  • Nervous System / cytology
  • Nervous System / embryology*
  • Nervous System / growth & development
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Synapses / metabolism
  • Synapses / ultrastructure
  • rho GTP-Binding Proteins / metabolism


  • Actins
  • rho GTP-Binding Proteins