Functional implications of axon initial segment cytoskeletal disruption in stroke

DOI: 10.1038/aps.2015.107


Axon initial segment (AIS) is the proximal part of the axon, which is not covered with a myelin sheath and possesses a distinctive, specialized assembly of voltage-gated ion channels and associated proteins. AIS plays critical roles in synaptic integration and action potential generation in central neurons. Recent evidence shows that stroke causes rapid, irreversible calpain-mediated proteolysis of the AIS cytoskeleton of neurons surrounding the ischemic necrotic core. A better understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying this “non-lethal” neuronal damage might provide new therapeutic strategies for improving stroke outcome. Here, we present a brief overview of the structure and function of the AIS. We then discuss possible mechanisms underlying stroke-induced AIS damage, including the roles of calpains and possible sources of Ca2+ ions, which are necessary for the activation of calpains. Finally, we discuss the potential functional implications of the loss of the AIS cytoskeleton and ion channel clusters for neuronal excitability.
Keywords: axon initial segment; stroke; Ca2+; calpain; spreading depression; sodium channels

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