Cortical anchoring of the microtubule cytoskeleton is essential for neuron polarity

Elife. 2020 Apr 15:9:e55111. doi: 10.7554/eLife.55111.


The development of a polarized neuron relies on the selective transport of proteins to axons and dendrites. Although it is well known that the microtubule cytoskeleton has a central role in establishing neuronal polarity, how its specific organization is established and maintained is poorly understood. Using the in vivo model system Caenorhabditis elegans, we found that the highly conserved UNC-119 protein provides a link between the membrane-associated Ankyrin (UNC-44) and the microtubule-associated CRMP (UNC-33). Together they form a periodic membrane-associated complex that anchors axonal and dendritic microtubule bundles to the cortex. This anchoring is critical to maintain microtubule organization by opposing kinesin-1 powered microtubule sliding. Disturbing this molecular complex alters neuronal polarity and causes strong developmental defects of the nervous system leading to severely paralyzed animals.

Keywords: Ankyrin; C. elegans; CRMP; cell biology; kinesin; microtubule; neuron polarity; neuroscience.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ankyrins / physiology
  • Caenorhabditis elegans
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / physiology
  • Cell Polarity / physiology*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology
  • Cytoskeleton / physiology*
  • Locomotion
  • Microtubules / physiology*
  • Nerve Growth Factors / physiology
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Neurons / physiology*


  • Ankyrins
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins
  • Nerve Growth Factors
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • UNC-119 protein, C elegans
  • unc-33 protein, C elegans
  • unc-44 protein, C elegans