Selective microtubule-based transport of dendritic membrane proteins arises in concert with axon specification

Jennifer D. Petersen, Stefanie Kaech, Gary Banker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Scopus citations


The polarized distribution of membrane proteins to axonal or somatodendritic neuronal compartments is fundamental to nearly every aspect of neuronal function. The polarity of dendritic proteins depends on selective microtubule-based transport; the vesicles that carry these proteins are transported into dendrites but do not enter the axon. We used live-cell imaging of fluorescently tagged dendritic and axonal proteins combined with immunostaining for initial segment and cytoskeletal markers to evaluate different models of dendrite-selective transport in cultured rat hippocampal neurons. In mature neurons, dendritic vesicles that entered the base of the axon stopped at the proximal edge of the axon initial segment, defined by immunostaining for ankyrinG, rather than moving into the initial segment itself. In contrast, axonal vesicles passed through the initial segment without impediment. During development, dendrite-selective transport was detected shortly after axons formed, several days before initial segment assembly, before the appearance of a dense actin meshwork in the initial segment, and before dendrites acquire microtubules of mixed polarity orientation. Indeed, some elements of selective transport were detected even before axon specification. These findings are inconsistent with models for selective transport that depend on the presence of an F-actin-based cytoplasmic filter in the initial segment or that posit that transport into dendrites is mediated by dyneins translocating along minus-end out microtubules. Instead our results suggest that selective transport involves the coordinated regulation of the different motor proteins that mediate dendritic vesicle transport and that the selectivity of motor-microtubule interactions is one facet of this process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4135-4147
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2014


  • Axon
  • Dendrite
  • Hippocampus
  • Initial segment
  • Membrane trafficking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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