Fewer active motors per vesicle may explain slowed vesicle transport in chick motoneurons after three days in vitro

Jed C. Macosko, Jason M. Newbern, Jean Rockford, Ernest N. Chisena, Charlotte M. Brown, George M. Holzwarth, Carol E. Milligan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Vesicle transport in cultured chick motoneurons was studied over a period of 3 days using motion-enhanced differential interference contrast (MEDIC) microscopy, an improved version of video-enhanced DIC. After 3 days in vitro (DIV), the average vesicle velocity was about 30% less than after 1 DIV. In observations at 1, 2 and 3 DIV, larger vesicles moved more slowly than small vesicles, and retrograde vesicles were larger than anterograde vesicles. The number of retrograde vesicles increased relative to anterograde vesicles after 3 DIV, but this fact alone could not explain the decrease in velocity, since the slowing of vesicle transport in maturing motoneurons was observed independently for both anterograde and retrograde vesicles. In order to better understand the slowing trend, the distance vs. time trajectories of individual vesicles were examined at a frame rate of 8.3/s. Qualitatively, these trajectories consisted of short (1-2 s) segments of constant velocity, and the changes in velocity between segments were abrupt (< 0.2 s). The trajectories were therefore fit to a series of connected straight lines. Surprisingly, the slopes of theses lines, i.e. the vesicle velocities, were often found to be multiples of ~ 0.6 μm/s. The velocity histogram showed multiple peaks, which, when fit with Gaussians using a least squares minimization, yielded an average spacing of 0.57 μm/s (taken as the slope of a fit to peak position vs. peak number, R2 = 0.994). We propose that the abrupt velocity changes occur when 1 or 2 motors suddenly begin or cease actively participating in vesicle transport. Under this hypothesis, the decrease in average vesicle velocity observed for maturing motoneurons is due to a decrease in the average number of active motors per vesicle.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6-12
Number of pages7
JournalBrain Research
StatePublished - May 23 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Anterograde neuron traffic
  • Cooperative fast axonal transport
  • In vitro neuronal aging
  • Processive molecular motors
  • Retrograde vesicle velocity
  • Video-enhanced differential interference contrast microscopy (VE-DIC)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology


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