Axonal transport and maturation of lysosomes

Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2018 Aug;51:45-51. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2018.02.020. Epub 2018 Mar 9.


Lysosomes perform degradative functions that are important for all cells. However, neurons are particularly dependent on optimal lysosome function due to their extremes of longevity, size and polarity. Axons in particular exemplify the major spatial challenges faced by neurons in the maintenance of lysosome biogenesis and function. What impact does this have on the regulation and functions of lysosomes in axons? This review focuses on the mechanisms whereby axonal lysosome biogenesis, transport and function are adapted to meet neuronal demand. Important features include the dynamic relationship between endosomes, autophagosomes and lysosomes as well as the transport mechanisms that support the movement of lysosome precursors in axons. A picture is emerging wherein intermediates in the lysosome maturation processes that would only exist transiently within the crowded confines of a neuronal cell body are spatially and temporally separated over the extreme distances encountered in axons. Axons may thus offer significant opportunities for the analysis of the mechanisms that control lysosome biogenesis. Insights from the genetics and pathology of human neurodegenerative diseases furthermore emphasize the importance of efficient axonal transport of lysosomes and their precursors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axonal Transport / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Lysosomes / physiology*
  • Neurons / cytology*
  • Neurons / physiology*