, Volume 56, Issue 2, pp 249-273

Neuritic growth rate described by modeling microtubule dynamics

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A model is developed to describe neuronal elongation as a result of the polymerization of microtubules and elastic stretching of the neurites by force produced by the growth cone. The model for a single segment with a single growth cone revealed a constant elongation rate, while the concentration of tubulin in the soma rises, and the concentration of tubulin becomes constant in the growth cone. Extending the model to a neurite with a single branch point and two growth cones revealed the same results. When the assembly or the disassembly rate of microtubules is unequal in both growth cones, transient retraction of one of the terminal segments occurs, which results in complete retraction of the segment when the difference in (dis)assembly rate between the two growth cones is large enough. When the model is applied to large trees, a maximal sustainable number of terminal segments as a function of the production rate of tubulin appears. Mechanisms to stop outgrowth are discussed in relation to the establishment of synaptical contacts between cells.