Neuronal polarity

Cold Spring Harb Perspect Biol. 2009 Sep;1(3):a001644. doi: 10.1101/cshperspect.a001644.


The assembly of functional neuronal networks in the developing animal relies on the polarization of neurons, i.e., the formation of a single axon and multiple dendrites. Breaking the symmetry of neurons depends on cytoskeletal rearrangements. In particular, axon specification requires local dynamic instability of actin and stabilization of microtubules. The polarized cytoskeleton also provides the basis for selective trafficking and retention of cellular components in the future somatodendritic or axonal compartments. Hence, these mechanisms are not only essential to achieve neuronal polarization, but also to maintain it. Different extracellular and intracellular signals converge on the regulation of the cytoskeleton. Most notably, Rho GTPases, PI3K, Ena/VASP, cofilin and SAD kinases are major intracellular regulators of neuronal polarity. Analyzing polarity signals under physiological conditions will provide a better understanding of how neurons can be induced to repolarize under pathological conditions, i.e., to regenerate their axons after central nervous system (CNS) injury.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Actins / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Axons / metabolism
  • Caenorhabditis elegans
  • Cell Lineage
  • Cell Polarity*
  • Central Nervous System / metabolism
  • Cytoskeleton / metabolism
  • Developmental Biology / methods
  • Drosophila
  • Humans
  • Microtubules / metabolism
  • Models, Biological
  • Neurons / cytology*
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Neurons / physiology
  • rho GTP-Binding Proteins / metabolism


  • Actins
  • rho GTP-Binding Proteins