Graphene Promotes Axon Elongation through Local Stall of Nerve Growth Factor Signaling Endosomes

Nano Lett. 2020 May 13;20(5):3633-3641. doi: 10.1021/acs.nanolett.0c00571. Epub 2020 Apr 13.


Several works reported increased differentiation of neuronal cells grown on graphene; however, the molecular mechanism driving axon elongation on this material has remained elusive. Here, we study the axonal transport of nerve growth factor (NGF), the neurotrophin supporting development of peripheral neurons, as a key player in the time course of axonal elongation of dorsal root ganglion neurons on graphene. We find that graphene drastically reduces the number of retrogradely transported NGF vesicles in favor of a stalled population in the first 2 days of culture, in which the boost of axon elongation is observed. This correlates with a mutual charge redistribution, observed via Raman spectroscopy and electrophysiological recordings. Furthermore, ultrastructural analysis indicates a reduced microtubule distance and an elongated axonal topology. Thus, both electrophysiological and structural effects can account for graphene action on neuron development. Unraveling the molecular players underneath this interplay may open new avenues for axon regeneration applications.

Keywords: Graphene; axon elongation; material−neuron interface; membrane-associated periodic skeleton; nerve growth factor retrograde transport; peripheral dorsal root ganglion neuron.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Endosomes*
  • Graphite*
  • Mice
  • Nerve Growth Factor / physiology*
  • Nerve Regeneration


  • Graphite
  • Nerve Growth Factor