Establishment of axon-dendrite polarity in developing neurons

Annu Rev Neurosci. 2009:32:347-81. doi: 10.1146/annurev.neuro.31.060407.125536.


Neurons are among the most highly polarized cell types in the body, and the polarization of axon and dendrites underlies the ability of neurons to integrate and transmit information in the brain. Significant progress has been made in the identification of the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying the establishment of neuronal polarity using primarily in vitro approaches such as dissociated culture of rodent hippocampal and cortical neurons. This model has led to the predominant view suggesting that neuronal polarization is specified largely by stochastic, asymmetric activation of intracellular signaling pathways. Recent evidence shows that extracellular cues can play an instructive role during neuronal polarization in vitro and in vivo. In this review, we synthesize the recent data supporting an integrative model whereby extracellular cues orchestrate the intracellular signaling underlying the initial break of neuronal symmetry leading to axon-dendrite polarization.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / physiology
  • Axons / ultrastructure*
  • Brain / cytology*
  • Brain / embryology*
  • Brain / physiology
  • Cell Communication / physiology
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology
  • Cell Polarity / physiology*
  • Dendrites / physiology
  • Dendrites / ultrastructure*
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Neurogenesis / physiology
  • Signal Transduction / physiology


  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins