Which way to go? Cytoskeletal organization and polarized transport in neurons

Mol Cell Neurosci. 2011 Jan;46(1):9-20. doi: 10.1016/j.mcn.2010.08.015. Epub 2010 Sep 9.


To establish and maintain their polarized morphology, neurons employ active transport driven by cytoskeletal motor proteins to sort cargo between axons and dendrites. These motors can move in a specific direction over either microtubules (kinesins, dynein) or actin filaments (myosins). The basic traffic rules governing polarized transport on the neuronal cytoskeleton have long remained unclear, but recent work has revealed several fundamental sorting principles based on differences in the cytoskeletal organization in axons versus dendrites. We will highlight the basic characteristics of the neuronal cytoskeleton and review existing evidence for microtubule and actin based traffic rules in polarized neuronal transport. We will propose a model in which polarized sorting of cargo is established by recruiting or activating the proper subset of motor proteins, which are subsequently guided to specific directions by the polarized organization of the neuronal cytoskeleton.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Biological Transport / physiology*
  • Cell Polarity*
  • Cytoskeleton / metabolism*
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins / metabolism
  • Microtubules / metabolism
  • Molecular Motor Proteins / metabolism
  • Neurons / cytology*
  • Neurons / physiology*


  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins
  • Molecular Motor Proteins