Inhibition of neurite polarity by tau antisense oligonucleotides in primary cerebellar neurons

Nature. 1990 Feb 1;343(6257):461-3. doi: 10.1038/343461a0.


Neurons in culture can have fundamentally distinct morphologies which permit their cytological identification and the recognition of their neurites as axons or dendrites. Microtubules may have a role in determining morphology by the selective stabilization of spatially distinct microtubule subsets. The plasticity of a neurite correlates inversely with the stability of its component microtubules: microtubules in growth cones are very dynamic, and in initial neurites there is continuous incorporation of labelled subunits, whereas in mature neurites, microtubules are highly stabilized. The binding of microtubule-associated proteins to the microtubules very probably contributes to this stability. Cerebellar neurons in dissociated culture initially extend exploratory neurites and, after a relatively constant interval, become polarized. Polarity becomes evident when a single neurite exceeds the others in length. These stable neurites cease to undergo the retractions and extensions characteristic of initial neurites and assume many features of axons and dendrites. We have now studied the role of the neuronal microtubule-associate protein tau in neurite polarization by selectively inhibiting tau expression by the addition of antisense oligonucleotides to the culture media. Although the extension of initial exploratory neurites occurred normally, neurite asymmetry was inhibited by the failure to elaborate an axon.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / drug effects
  • Axons / physiology
  • Axons / ultrastructure*
  • Base Sequence
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cerebellum / embryology
  • Cerebellum / ultrastructure*
  • DNA / genetics
  • Gene Expression / drug effects
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins / genetics
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins / physiology*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Neurons / ultrastructure*
  • Oligonucleotides / pharmacology*
  • Oligonucleotides, Antisense
  • Rats
  • tau Proteins


  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins
  • Oligonucleotides
  • Oligonucleotides, Antisense
  • tau Proteins
  • DNA