The yin-yang of dendrite morphology: unity of actin and microtubules

Mol Neurobiol. 2008 Dec;38(3):270-84. doi: 10.1007/s12035-008-8046-8. Epub 2008 Nov 6.


Actin and microtubules (MT) are targets of numerous molecular pathways that control neurite outgrowth. To generate a neuronal protrusion, coordinated structural changes of the actin and MT cytoskeletons must occur. Neurite formation occurs when actin filaments (F-actin) are destabilized, filopodia are extended, and MTs invade filopodia. This process results in either axon or dendrite formation. Axonal branching involves interplay between F-actin and MTs, with F-actin and MTs influencing polymerization, stabilization, and maintenance of each other. Our knowledge of the mechanisms regulating development of the axon, however, far eclipses our understanding of dendritic development and branching. The two classes of neurites, while fundamentally similar in their ability to elongate and branch, dramatically differ in growth rate, orientation of polarized MT bundles, and mechanisms that initiate branching. In this review, we focus on how F-actin, MTs, and proteins that link the two cytoskeletons coordinate to specifically initiate dendritic events.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Actins / physiology*
  • Axons / physiology
  • Axons / ultrastructure
  • Cell Polarity / physiology
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins / metabolism*
  • Dendrites / physiology*
  • Dendrites / ultrastructure*
  • Dynamins / metabolism
  • Kinesin / metabolism
  • Microtubules / metabolism
  • Microtubules / physiology*
  • Microtubules / ultrastructure
  • Myosins / metabolism
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / physiology
  • rho GTP-Binding Proteins / metabolism


  • Actins
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Myosins
  • Kinesin
  • rho GTP-Binding Proteins
  • Dynamins