Breaking the neuronal sphere: regulation of the actin cytoskeleton in neuritogenesis

Nat Rev Neurosci. 2002 Sep;3(9):694-704. doi: 10.1038/nrn918.


The sprouting of neurites, which will later become axons and dendrites, is an important event in early neuronal differentiation. Studies in living neurons indicate that neuritogenesis begins immediately after neuronal commitment, with the activation of membrane receptors by extracellular cues. These receptors activate intracellular cascades that trigger changes in the actin cytoskeleton, which promote the initial breakdown of symmetry. Then, through the regulation of gene transcription, and of microtubule and membrane dynamics, the newly formed neurite becomes stabilized. A key challenge is to define the molecular machinery that regulates the actin cytoskeleton during initial neurite sprouting. We propose that analysing the molecules involved in actin-dependent mechanisms in non-neuronal systems, such as budding yeast and migrating fibroblasts, could help to uncover the secrets of neuritogenesis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Actins / metabolism*
  • Actins / ultrastructure
  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology*
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism*
  • Cell Membrane / ultrastructure
  • Cell Movement / physiology
  • Central Nervous System / cytology
  • Central Nervous System / embryology*
  • Central Nervous System / metabolism
  • Cytoskeleton / metabolism*
  • Cytoskeleton / ultrastructure
  • Humans
  • Neurites / metabolism*
  • Neurites / ultrastructure
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • rho GTP-Binding Proteins / metabolism


  • Actins
  • Receptors, Cell Surface
  • rho GTP-Binding Proteins