Axons are specialized extensions of neurons that are critical for the organization of the nervous system. To maintain function in axons that often extend some distance from the cell body, specialized mechanisms of energy delivery are likely to be necessary. Over the past decade, greater understanding of human demyelinating diseases and the development of animal models have suggested that oligodendroglia are critical for maintaining the function of axons. In this review, we discuss evidence for the vulnerability of neurons to energy deprivation, the importance of oligodendrocytes for axon function and survival, and recent data suggesting that transfer of energy metabolites from oligodendroglia to axons through monocarboxylate transporter 1 (MCT1) may be critical for the survival of axons. This pathway has important implications both for the basic biology of the nervous system and for human neurological disease. New insights into the role of oligodendroglial biology provide an exciting opportunity for revisions in nervous system biology, understanding myelin-based disorders, and therapeutics development.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology