Tomassy GS, Berger DR, Chen HH, Kasthuri N, Hayworth KJ, Vercelli A, Seung HS, Lichtman JW, Arlotta P. 2014. Distinct profiles of myelin distribution along single axons of pyramidal neurons in the neocortex. Science (New York, N.Y.). 344(6181):319-24. Pubmed: 24744380 DOI:10.1126/science.1249766


Myelin is a defining feature of the vertebrate nervous system. Variability in the thickness of the myelin envelope is a structural feature affecting the conduction of neuronal signals. Conversely, the distribution of myelinated tracts along the length of axons has been assumed to be uniform. Here, we traced high-throughput electron microscopy reconstructions of single axons of pyramidal neurons in the mouse neocortex and built high-resolution maps of myelination. We find that individual neurons have distinct longitudinal distribution of myelin. Neurons in the superficial layers displayed the most diversified profiles, including a new pattern where myelinated segments are interspersed with long, unmyelinated tracts. Our data indicate that the profile of longitudinal distribution of myelin is an integral feature of neuronal identity and may have evolved as a strategy to modulate long-distance communication in the neocortex.

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Dr. Arlotta is interested in understanding the molecular laws that govern the birth, differentiation and assembly of the cerebral cortex, the part of the brain that controls how we sense, move and think. She integrates developmental and evolutionary knowledge to investigate therapies for brain repair and for modeling neuropsychiatric disease.

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