Neuronal Activity in the Sciatic Nerve Is Accompanied by Immediate Cytoskeletal Changes

Bossmat Yehuda, Tal Gradus Pery, Efrat Ophir, Tamar Blumenfeld-Katzir, Anton Sheinin, Yael Alon, Noy Danino, Eran Perlson, Uri Nevo*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Mechanical events and alterations in neuronal morphology that accompany neuronal activity have been observed for decades. However, no clear neurophysiological role, nor an agreed molecular mechanism relating these events to the electrochemical process, has been found. Here we hypothesized that intense, yet physiological, electrical activity in neurons triggers cytoskeletal depolymerization. We excited the sciatic nerve of anesthetized mice with repetitive electric pulses (5, 10, and 100 Hz) for 1 and 2 min and immediately fixed the excised nerves. We then scanned the excised nerves with high-resolution transmission electron microscopy, and quantified cytoskeletal changes in the resulting micrographs. We demonstrate that excitation with a stimulation frequency that is within the physiological regime is accompanied by a significant reduction in the density of cytoskeletal proteins relative to the baseline values recorded in control nerves. After 10 Hz stimulation with durations of 1 and 2 min, neurofilaments density dropped to 55.8 and 51.1% of the baseline median values, respectively. In the same experiments, microtubules density dropped to 23.7 and 38.5% of the baseline median values, respectively. These changes were also accompanied by a reduction in the cytoskeleton-to-cytoplasm contrast that we attribute to the presence of depolymerized electron-dense molecules in the lumen. Thus, we demonstrate with an in vivo model a link between electrical activity and immediate cytoskeleton rearrangement at the nano-scale. We suggest that this cytoskeletal plasticity reduces cellular stiffness and allows cellular homeostasis, maintenance of neuronal morphology and that it facilitates in later stages growth of the neuronal projections.

Original languageEnglish
Article number757264
JournalFrontiers in Molecular Neuroscience
StatePublished - 27 Oct 2021


FundersFunder number
Israel Science Foundation1585/17


    • Calpain
    • beading
    • biophysics
    • mechanics
    • neuronal plasticity


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