Disruption of RAB-5 Increases EFF-1 Fusogen Availability at the Cell Surface and Promotes the Regenerative Axonal Fusion Capacity of the Neuron

Casey Linton, M. Asrafuzzaman Riyadh, Xue Yan Ho, Brent Neumann, Rosina Giordano-Santini, Massimo A. Hilliard

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7 Citations (Scopus)


Following a transection injury to the axon, neurons from a number of species have the ability to undergo spontaneous repair via fusion of the two separated axonal fragments. In the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, this highly efficient regenerative axonal fusion is mediated by epithelial fusion failure-1 (EFF-1), a fusogenic protein that functions at the membrane to merge the two axonal fragments. Identifying modulators of axonal fusion and EFF-1 is an important step toward a better understanding of this repair process. Here, we present evidence that the small GTPase RAB-5 acts to inhibit axonal fusion, a function achieved via endocytosis of EFF-1 within the injured neuron. Therefore, we find that perturbing RAB-5 activity is sufficient to restore axonal fusion in mutant animals with decreased axonal fusion capacity. This is accompanied by enhanced membranous localization of EFF-1 and the production of extracellular EFF-1-containing vesicles. These findings identify RAB-5 as a novel regulator of axonal fusion in C. elegans hermaphrodites and the first regulator of EFF-1 in neurons.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Peripheral and central nerve injuries cause life-long disabilities due to the fact that repair rarely leads to reinnervation of the target tissue. In the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, axonal regeneration can proceed through axonal fusion, whereby a regrowing axon reconnects and fuses with its own separated distal fragment, restoring the original axonal tract. We have characterized axonal fusion and established that the fusogen epithelial fusion failure-1 (EFF-1) is a key element for fusing the two separated axonal fragments back together. Here, we show that the small GTPase RAB-5 is a key cell-intrinsic regulator of the fusogen EFF-1 and can in turn regulate axonal fusion. Our findings expand the possibility for this process to be controlled and exploited to facilitate axonal repair in medical applications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2823-2836
Number of pages14
JournalThe Journal of Neuroscience
Issue number15
Publication statusPublished - 10 Apr 2019


  • axonal fusion
  • axonal regeneration
  • C. elegans
  • endocytosis
  • fusogen
  • RAB-5

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