The axon as a physical structure in health and acute trauma

Publication date: Available online 24 May 2016 Source:Journal of Chemical Neuroanatomy Author(s): Matthew T.K. Kirkcaldie, Jessica M. Collins The physical structure of neurons – dendrites converging on the soma, with an axon conveying activity to distant locations – is uniquely tied to their function. To perform their role, axons need to maintain structural precision in the soft, gelatinous environment of the central nervous system and the dynamic, flexible paths of nerves in the periphery. This requires close mechanical coupling between axons and the surrounding tissue, as well as an elastic, robust axoplasm resistant to pinching and flattening, and capable of sustaining transport despite physical distortion. These mechanical properties arise primarily from the properties of the internal cytoskeleton, coupled to the axonal membrane and the extracellular matrix. In particular, the two large constituents of the internal cytoskeleton, microtubules and neurofilaments, are braced against each other and flexibly interlinked by specialised proteins. Recent evidence suggests that the primary function of neurofilament sidearms is to structure the axoplasm into a linearly organised, elastic gel. This provides support and structure to the contents of axons in peripheral nerves subject to bending, protecting the relatively brittle microtubule bundles and maintaining them as transport conduits. Furthermore, a substantial proportion of axons are myelinated, and this thick ...
Source: Journal of Chemical Neuroanatomy - Category: Neuroscience Source Type: research

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