Older but not slower: aging does not alter axonal transport dynamics of signalling endosomes in vivo      

  • James Sleigh, Giampietro Schiavo
  • Matters, June 2016, Sciencematters
  • DOI: 10.19185/matters.201605000018

Axonal transport is unnaffected by aging

What is it about?

The ferrying of cargoes such as organelles, proteins, and endosomes along axons is essential for the health and survival of nerve cells. This process of axonal transport has been shown to decline with age in a range of models; however, there is little in vivo evidence on how the transport of individual cargoes is impacted in living mammals. We show that the real-time dynamics (speed and pauses) of endosomes in peripheral nerve axons remain unchanged in live mice from one month to over a year old.

Why is it important?

Several studies using primary neurons and non-invasive in vivo approaches indicate that axonal transport is compromised in mice aged about a year. Moreover, transport of individual mitochondria has been shown to decline in live retinal neurons of the eye by 12-13 months. Counter to these observations, our work indicates that decline in axonal transport in the mouse peripheral nervous system does not occur in vivo before one year.


Dr James N Sleigh
University College London

We have only looked at endosome cargoes and not aged mice much beyond 13 months. It will be interesting to see 1) whether organelles such as mitochondria are impacted at this stage in the sciatic nerve, and 2) what happens in older mice. These experiments would allow us to 1) comment on whether aging has cargo-specific effects on transport in peripheral nerve axons, and 2) (by comparison with previous publications) determine if the peripheral and central nervous systems are differentially affected by time.

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The following have contributed to this page: Dr James N Sleigh