Extracellular stimuli specifically regulate localized levels of individual neuronal mRNAs
Axons depend critically on axonal transport both for supplying materials and for communicating with cell bodies. This chapter looks at each activity, asking what aspects are essential for axon survival. Axonal transport declines in neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and multiple sclerosis, and in normal ageing, but whether all cargoes are equally affected and what limits axon survival remains unclear. Cargoes can be differentially blocked in some disorders, either individually or in groups. Each missing protein cargo results in localized loss-of-function that can be partially modeled by disrupting the corresponding gene, sometimes with surprising results. The axonal response to losing specific proteins also depends on the rates of protein turnover and on whether the protein can be locally synthesized. Among cargoes with important axonal roles are components of the PI3 kinase, Mek/Erk, and Jnk signaling pathways, which help to communicate with cell bodies and to regulate axonal transport itself. Bidirectional trafficking of Bdnf, NT-3, and other neurotrophic factors contribute to intraand intercellular signaling, affecting the axon’s cellular environment and survival. Finally, several adhesion molecules and gangliosides are key determinants of axon survival, probably by mediating axon–glia interactions. Thus, failure of long-distance intracellular transport can deprive axons of one, few, or many cargoes. This can lead to axon degeneration either directly, through the absence of essential axonal proteins, or indirectly, through failures in communication with cell bodies and nonneuronal cells. 2011, Elsevier Inc.