Axonal Transport: A Constrained System
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.29245/2572.942x/2017/3.1118
Long-distance intracellular axonal transport is predominantly microtubule-based, and its impairment is linked to neurodegeneration. Here we review recent theoretical and experimental evidence that suggest that near the axon boundaries (walls), the effective viscosity can become large enough to impede cargo transport in small (but not large) caliber axons. Theoretical work suggests that this opposition to motion increases rapidly as the cargo approaches the wall. However, having parallel microtubules close enough together to enable a cargo to simultaneously engage motors on more than one microtubule dramatically enhances motor activity, and thus decreases the effects due to such opposition. Experimental evidence supports this hypothesis: in small caliber axons, microtubule density is higher, increasing the probability of having parallel microtubules close enough that they can be used simultaneously by motors on a cargo. For transport toward the minus-end of microtubules, e.g., toward the cell body in an axon, a recently discovered force adaptation system can also contribute to overcoming such opposition to motion.