Death of an axon: studying axon loss in development and disease. uri icon


  • The loss of axon branches is a common feature of both the developing and the diseased nervous system. Despite its fundamental importance, a clear mechanistic understanding is lacking on how axonal loss occurs. However, the first molecular inroads into post-traumatic (Wallerian) axon degeneration have recently been made. In parallel, imaging techniques that allow visualizing single axons in vivo are providing a first glimpse at the cellular mechanisms of active dismantling of superfluous or diseased axons. This gives hope that soon a clearer mechanistic understanding of axon loss will emerge: comparing different forms of axon loss will reveal the spectrum of axon loss mechanisms; studies aimed at integrating the known molecular and cellular players during axon loss will provide mechanistic insight into axon dismantling; finally-by understanding how axons are normally lost-we will hopefully find ways to protect them during neurological disease or after trauma.

publication date

  • September 2005