Vesicular pathways coupling the neuromuscular junction with the motor neuron soma are essential for neuronal function and survival. To characterize the organelles responsible for this long-distance crosstalk, we developed a purification strategy based on a fragment of tetanus neurotoxin (TeNT HC) conjugated to paramagnetic beads. This approach enabled us to identify, among other factors, the small GTPase Rab7 as a functional marker of a specific pool of axonal retrograde carriers, which transport neurotrophins and their receptors. Furthermore, Rab5 is essential for an early step in TeNT HC sorting but is absent from axonally transported vesicles. Our data demonstrate that TeNT HC uses a retrograde transport pathway shared with p75NTR, TrkB, and BDNF, which is strictly dependent on the activities of both Rab5 and Rab7. Therefore, Rab7 plays an essential role in axonal retrograde transport by controlling a vesicular compartment implicated in neurotrophin traffic. © 2006 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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