Several lines of evidence indicate that neurofilaments are major intrinsic determinants of axonal caliber in myelinated nerve fibers, and that the delivery of neurofilaments by slow axonal transport is an important mechanism by which neurons regulate axonal caliber. To further clarify the relationship between neurofilament transport and axonal caliber, we examined transport in developing motor fibers of rat sciatic nerve. In 3-, 10-, 12-, and 20-week-old rats, lumbar motor neurons were labeled by the intraspinal injection of radioactive amino acids, and the distributions of labeled cytoskeletal proteins within the sciatic nerve were analyzed at various times afterwards using sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis, gel fluorography, and liquid scintillation spectroscopy. There was a progressive decline in the velocity of neurofilament transport with increasing distance along axons undergoing radial growth. By examining transport in different regions of the nerve in animals of the same age, we separated age-dependent reductions in velocity from those related to position along the nerve. The cross-sectional areas of these motor axons (in the L5 ventral root) increased linearly between 3 and 18 weeks of age. Quantitative electron microscopic analysis at 3 and 10 weeks of age revealed that neurofilament density was comparable in fibers of all calibers, indicating that the radial growth of these myelinated nerve fibers corelate with a proportional increase in neurofilament content. We propose that progressive reduction in the velocity of neurofilament transport along the nerve provides for radial growth during development.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Number of pages||10|
|Journal||Journal of Neuroscience|
|State||Published - 1985|
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