Neurons must be kept healthy in order to function properly, and when this maintenance is disrupted due to injury or disease, the neuron undergoes degeneration. A recent paper has identified a protein called Nmnat2 as a survival factor for neurons—without it, neurons begin to undergo degeneration. Nmnat2 proteins turn over rapidly within the axon of the neuron, and its levels decrease rapidly after injury to the neuron. Images above show projections from neurons with normal (left) or reduced (right) levels of Nmnat2; reduced levels of Nmnat2 result in multiple swellings, which precede degeneration of the neuron.
Reference: Jonathan Gilley and Michael P. Coleman. Authors’ PLoS Biology paper can be found here.