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Axonal microtubules are predominantly organized into a plus-end-out pattern. Here, we tested both experimentally and with computational modeling whether a motor-based polarity-sorting mechanism can explain this microtubule pattern. The posited mechanism centers on cytoplasmic dynein transporting plus-end-out and minus-end-out microtubules into and out of the axon, respectively. When cytoplasmic dynein was acutely inhibited, the bidirectional transport of microtubules in the axon was disrupted in both directions, after which minus-end-out microtubules accumulated in the axon over time. Computational modeling revealed that dynein-mediated transport of microtubules can establish and preserve a predominantly plus-end-out microtubule pattern as per the details of the experimental findings, but only if a kinesin motor and a static cross-linker protein are also at play. Consistent with the predictions of the model, partial depletion of TRIM46, a protein that cross-links axonal microtubules in a manner that influences their polarity orientation, leads to an increase in microtubule transport.
Rao, Anand N.; Patil, Ankita; Black, Mark M.; Craig, Erin M.; Myers, Kennith A.; Yeung, Howard T.; and Bass, Peter W., "Cytoplasmic Dynein Transports Axonal Microtubules in a Polarity-Sorting Manner" (2017). All Faculty Scholarship for the College of the Sciences. 141.
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