Systems biology of symmetry breaking during neuronal polarity formation

Dev Neurobiol. 2011 Jun;71(6):584-93. doi: 10.1002/dneu.20837.


Polarization, in which a single axon and multiple dendrites are formed, is crucial for neuronal functions, and symmetry breaking is the initial step of this process. Accumulating studies have revealed a number of molecules that act asymmetrically in neurons, and thereby regulate neuronal polarity. Thus, one of the major goals of current research is to understand how asymmetric signals are generated during the symmetry-breaking step. Current models of neuronal symmetry breaking generally involve "local activation" for induction of axon outgrowth and "global inhibition" to suppress formation of multiple axons and can be categorized into "one-takes-all" and "activator-inhibitor" models. Both types of model incorporate a positive feedback loop to execute local activation, but differ in the manner of global inhibition. Quantitative experimentation combined with computational modeling is a powerful strategy in systems biology, and analyses in this direction have begun to yield a more profound understanding of how neurons break their symmetry during polarity formation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Polarity / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Neurons / ultrastructure
  • Systems Biology*