Periodic actin structures in neuronal axons are required to maintain microtubules

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Axons are the cable-like neuronal processes wiring the nervous system. They contain parallel bundles of microtubules as structural backbones, surrounded by regularly-spaced actin rings termed the periodic membrane skeleton (PMS). Despite being an evolutionarily-conserved, ubiquitous, highly-ordered feature of axons, the function of PMS is unknown. Here we studied PMS abundance, organisation and function, combining versatile Drosophila genetics with super-resolution microscopy and various functional readouts. Analyses with 11 different actin regulators and 3 actin-targeting drugs suggest PMS to contain short actin filaments which are depolymerisation resistant and sensitive to spectrin, adducin and nucleator deficiency - consistent with microscopy-derived models proposing PMS as specialised cortical actin. Upon actin removal we observed gaps in microtubule bundles, reduced microtubule polymerisation and reduced axon numbers suggesting a role of PMS in microtubule organisation. These effects become strongly enhanced when carried out in neurons lacking the microtubule-stabilising protein Short stop (Shot). Combining the aforementioned actin manipulations with Shot deficiency revealed a close correlation between PMS abundance and microtubule regulation, consistent with a model in which PMS-dependent microtubule polymerisation contributes to their maintenance in axons. We discuss potential implications of this novel PMS function along axon shafts for axon maintenance and regeneration.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Article numbermbc.E16-10-0727
Pages (from-to)296-308
JournalMolecular Biology of the Cell
Issue number296-308
Early online date23 Nov 2016
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2017

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