Microtubules are essential for polarized transport in neurons, but how their organization guides motor proteins to axons or dendrites is unclear. Because different motors recognize distinct microtubule properties, we used optical nanoscopy to examine the relationship between microtubule orientations, stability, and modifications. Nanometric tracking of motors to super-resolve microtubules and determine their polarity revealed that in dendrites, stable and acetylated microtubules are mostly oriented minus-end out, while dynamic and tyrosinated microtubules are oriented oppositely. In addition, microtubules with similar orientations and modifications form bundles that bias transport. Importantly, because the plus-end-directed Kinesin-1 selectively interacts with acetylated microtubules, this organization guides this motor out of dendrites and into axons. In contrast, Kinesin-3 prefers tyrosinated microtubules and can enter both axons and dendrites. This separation of distinct microtubule subsets into oppositely oriented bundles constitutes a key architectural principle of the neuronal microtubule cytoskeleton that enables polarized sorting by different motor proteins.
Keywords: axon; dendrites; kinesin; microtubule orientation; microtubule polarity; microtubules; motor proteins; neuronal polarity; neurons; polarized transport.
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