Myosin-II negatiwely regulates minor process extension and the temporal development of neuronal polarity

K. M. Kollins, J. Hy, P. C. Bridgman, Y. Q. Hyang, G. Gallo

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The earliest stage in the development of neuronal polarity is characterized by extension of undifferentiated "minor processes" (MPs), which subsequently differentiate into the axon and dendrites. We investigated the role of the myosin II motor protein in MP extension using forebrain and hippoeampal neuron cultures. Chronic treatment of neurons with the myosin II ATPase inhibitor blebbistatin increased MP length, which was also seen in myosin IIB knockouts. Through live-cell imaging, we demonstrate that myosin II inhibition triggers rapid minor process extension to a maximum length range. Myosin II activity is determined by phosphorylation of its regulatory light chains (rMLC) and mediated by myosin light chain kinase (MLCK) or RhoA-kinase (MOCK). Pharmacological inhibition of MLCK or ROCK increased MP length moderately, with combined inhibition of these kinases resulting in an additive increase in MP length similar to the effect of direct inhibition of myosin II. Selective inhibition of RhoA signaling upstream of ROCK, with cell-permeable C3 transferase, increased both the length and number of MPs. To determine whether myosin II affected development of neuronal polarity, MP differentiation was examined in cultures treated with direct or indirect myosin II inhibitors. Significantly, inhibition of myosin II, MLCK, or ROCK accelerated the development of neuronal polarity. Increased myosin II activity, through constitutively active MLCK or RhoA, decreased both the length and number of MPs and, consequently, delayed or abolished the development of neuronal polarity. Together, these data indicate that myosin II negatively regulates MP extension, and the developmental time course for axonogenesis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)279-298
Number of pages20
JournalDevelopmental Neurobiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Apr 2009


  • Minor process
  • Myosin II
  • Myosin light chain kinase
  • Neuronal development
  • Polarity
  • Rhokinase


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