Dynactin regulates bidirectional transport of dense-core vesicles in the axon and dendrites of cultured hippocampal neurons

Neuroscience. 2009 Sep 15;162(4):1001-10. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2009.05.038. Epub 2009 Jun 2.


A critical aspect of nerve cell function is peptidergic secretion involving the packaging, transport, and processing of a large group of peptide hormones and other signaling molecules, e.g. brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Dense-core vesicles (DCVs) are the organelles that transport these molecules to release sites in both the axon and dendrites of pyramidal neurons. DCVs exhibit complex transport behavior, where these organelles move bidirectionally, reverse direction, pause intermittently, and vary in velocities and run lengths. A key objective in the field of organelle transport is to define the molecules that mediate transport. This study investigated the role of dynactin, a putative opposite-polarity motor coordinator, in the microtubule-based transport of DCVs in primary cultured hippocampal neurons. First, by live cell imaging, we showed similar microtubule-based transport of BDNF, neuropeptide Y (NPY), and tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), consistent with the co-packaging of these DCV cargoes. However, we found higher DCV velocities in both the axon and dendrites than those of previous neuronal studies likely due to faster image acquisition times. Then, using well-characterized dynactin disruptors we demonstrate the need for dynactin in bidirectional transport where overexpression of both p50/dynamitin and the first coiled-coil domain of p150(Glued) (CC1) reduces the flux of DCVs in both directions in the axon and dendrites. We also observed that only CC1 reduces axonal and dendritic run lengths. These results suggest different functions for p50 and p150 in the dynactin complex in DCV transport. These findings are significant because they demonstrate that dynactin functions as a motor coordinator for the transport of DCVs in primary cultured rat hippocampal neurons.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / metabolism*
  • Biological Transport
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / metabolism
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Dendrites / metabolism*
  • Dynactin Complex
  • Embryo, Mammalian
  • Hippocampus / cytology*
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins / genetics
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins / physiology*
  • Neuropeptide Y / metabolism
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Rats
  • Secretory Vesicles / metabolism*
  • Tissue Plasminogen Activator / metabolism


  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • Dynactin Complex
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins
  • Neuropeptide Y
  • Tissue Plasminogen Activator