The nano-architecture of the axonal cytoskeleton

Nat Rev Neurosci. 2017 Dec;18(12):713-726. doi: 10.1038/nrn.2017.129. Epub 2017 Nov 3.


The corporeal beauty of the neuronal cytoskeleton has captured the imagination of generations of scientists. One of the easiest cellular structures to visualize by light microscopy, its existence has been known for well over 100 years, yet we have only recently begun to fully appreciate its intricacy and diversity. Recent studies combining new probes with super-resolution microscopy and live imaging have revealed surprising details about the axonal cytoskeleton and, in particular, have discovered previously unknown actin-based structures. Along with traditional electron microscopy, these newer techniques offer a nanoscale view of the axonal cytoskeleton, which is important for our understanding of neuronal form and function, and lay the foundation for future studies. In this Review, we summarize existing concepts in the field and highlight contemporary discoveries that have fundamentally altered our perception of the axonal cytoskeleton.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Architecture / methods
  • Axonal Transport / physiology*
  • Axons / metabolism*
  • Axons / ultrastructure
  • Cytoskeleton / metabolism*
  • Cytoskeleton / ultrastructure
  • Humans
  • Microscopy, Electron / methods
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Neurons / ultrastructure