Citation Graham B, Lauchlan K & McLean DR (2006) Dynamics of outgrowth in a continuum model of neurite elongation. Journal of Computational Neuroscience, 20 (1), pp. 43-60. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10827-006-5330-3
Abstract Neurite outgrowth (dendrites and axons) should be a stable, but easily regulated process to enable a neuron to make its appropriate network connections during development. We explore the dynamics of outgrowth in a mathematical continuum model of neurite elongation. The model describes the construction of the internal microtubule cytoskeleton, which results from the production and transport of tubulin dimers and their assembly into microtubules at the growing neurite tip. Tubulin is assumed to be largely synthesised in the cell body from where it is transported by active mechanisms and by diffusion along the neurite. It is argued that this construction process is a fundamental limiting factor in neurite elongation. In the model, elongation is highly stable when tubulin transport is dominated by either active transport or diffusion, but oscillations in length may occur when both active transport and diffusion contribute. Autoregulation of tubulin production can eliminate these oscillations. In all cases a stable steady-state length is reached, provided there is intrinsic decay of tubulin. Small changes in growth parameters, such as the tubulin production rate, can lead to large changes in length. Thus cytoskeleton construction can be both stable and easily regulated, as seems necessary for neurite outgrowth during nervous system development.