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Processive movement of actin by biased polymerization: a new paradigm of axonal transport

By Nilaj Chakrabarty, Pankaj Dubey, Yong Tang, Archan Ganguly, Kelsey Ladt, Christophe Leterrier, Peter Jung, Subhojit Roy

Posted 01 Nov 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/212449

Classic pulse-chase studies have shown that actin is conveyed in slow axonal transport, but the mechanistic basis for this movement is unknown. Recently, we reported that axonal actin was surprisingly dynamic, with focal assembly/dis-assembly events (hotspots) and elongating polymers along the axon-shaft (trails). Using a combination of live imaging, super-resolution microscopy, and modeling, here we explore how these axonal actin dynamics can lead to processive transport. We found abundant actin nucleation, along with a slow, anterogradely-biased flow of actin in axon-shafts. Starting with first principles of monomer/filament assembly, and incorporating imaging data, we generated a quantitative model simulating axonal hotspots and trails. Our simulations predict that the axonal actin dynamics indeed lead to an anterogradely-biased flow of the population, at rates consistent with slow transport. Collectively, the data point to a surprising scenario where local assembly and biased polymerization generate the slow axonal transport of actin. This mechanism is distinct from polymer-sliding, and seems well suited to convey highly dynamic cytoskeletal cargoes.

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