Axon degeneration is a prominent event in many neurodegenerative disorders. Axon injury stimulates an intrinsic self-destruction program that culminates in activation of the prodegeneration factor SARM1 and local dismantling of damaged axon segments. In healthy axons, SARM1 activity is restrained by constant delivery of the axon survival factor NMNAT2. Elevating NMNAT2 is neuroprotective, while loss of NMNAT2 evokes SARM1-dependent axon degeneration. As a gatekeeper of axon survival, NMNAT2 abundance is an important regulatory node in neuronal health, highlighting the need to understand the mechanisms behind NMNAT2 protein homeostasis. We demonstrate that pharmacological inhibition of the MAP3Ks dual leucine zipper kinase (DLK) and leucine zipper kinase (LZK) elevates NMNAT2 abundance and strongly protects axons from injury-induced degeneration. We discover that MAPK signaling selectively promotes degradation of palmitoylated NMNAT2, as well as palmitoylated SCG10. Conversely, nonpalmitoylated NMNAT2 is degraded by the Phr1/Skp1a/Fbxo45 ligase complex. Combined inactivation of both pathways leads to synergistic accumulation of NMNAT2 in axons and dramatically enhanced protection against pathological axon degeneration. Hence, the subcellular localization of distinct pools of NMNAT2 enables differential regulation of NMNAT2 abundance to control axon survival.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E8746-E8754
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number37
StatePublished - Sep 11 2018


  • Axon
  • DLK
  • NMNAT2
  • SARM1
  • SCG10


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