Neuronal autophagy: Going the distance to the axon

Zhenyu Yue, Jun Wang Qing, Masaaki Komatsu

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Autophagy, a regulated cellular degradation process responsible for the turnover of long-lived proteins and organelles, has been increasingly implicated in neurological disorders. Although autophagy is mostly viewed as a stress-induced process, recent studies have indicated that it is constitutively active in central nervous system (CNS) neurons and is protective against neurodegeneration. Neurons are highly specialized, post-mitotic cells that are typically composed of a soma (cell body), a dendritic tree and an axon. The detailed process of autophagy in such a highly differentiated cell type remains to be characterized. To elucidate the physiological role of neuronal autophagy, we generated mutant mice containing a neural cell type-specific deletion of Atg7, an essential gene for autophagy. Establishment of these mutant mice allowed us to examine cell-autonomous events in cerebellar Purkinje cells deficient in autophagy. Our data reveal the indispensability of autophagy in the maintenance of axonal homeostasis and the prevention of axonal dystrophy and degeneration. Furthermore, our study implicates dysfunction of axonal autophagy as a potential mechanism underlying axonopathy, which is linked to neurodegeneration associated with numerous human neurological disorders. Finally, our study has raised a possibility that "constitutive autophagy" in neurons involves processes that are not typical of autophagy in other cell types, but rather is highly adapted to local physiological function in the axon, which is projected in a distance from one neuron to another for transducing neural signals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)94-96
Number of pages3
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2008


  • Atg7
  • Autophagosome
  • Axonal dystrophy
  • Axonopathy
  • LC3
  • Lurcher
  • Membrane homeostasis
  • Neurodegeneration
  • Protein quality control
  • Purkinje cell

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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