Indexed on: 15 Dec '05Published on: 15 Dec '05Published in: Zoology
The cytoskeleton is the major intracellular structure that determines the morphology of a neuron. Thus, mechanisms that ensure a precisely regulated assembly of cytoskeletal elements in time and space have an important role in the development from a morphologically simple neuronal precursor cell to a complex polarized neuron that can establish contacts to several hundreds of other cells. Here, cytoskeletal mechanisms that underlie the formation of neurites, directed elongation and stabilization of neuronal processes are summarized. It has become evident that different cytoskeletal elements are highly crosslinked with each other by several classes of specific linker proteins. Of these, microtubule-associated proteins (MAPs) appear to have an important role in connecting the microtubule skeleton to other cytoskeletal filaments and plasma membrane components during neuronal morphogenesis. Future experiments will have to elucidate the function and the regulation of the neuronal cytoskeleton in an authentic nervous system environment during development. Recent approaches are discussed at the end of this article.