Here we report computational studies of bidirectional transport in an axon, specifically focusing on predictions when the retrograde motor becomes dysfunctional. We are motivated by reports that mutations in dynein-encoding genes can cause diseases associated with peripheral motor and sensory neurons, such as type 2O Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease. We use two different models to simulate bidirectional transport in an axon: an anterograde-retrograde model, which neglects passive transport by diffusion in the cytosol, and a full slow transport model, which includes passive transport by diffusion in the cytosol. As dynein is a retrograde motor, dysfunction should not directly influence anterograde transport. However, our modeling results unexpectedly predict that slow axonal transport fails to transport cargos against their concentration gradient without dynein. The reason is the lack of a physical mechanism for the reverse information flow from the axon terminal, which is required so that the cargo concentration at the terminal could influence the cargo concentration distribution in the axon. Mathematically speaking, to achieve a prescribed concentration at the terminal, equations governing cargo transport must allow for the imposition of a boundary condition postulating the cargo concentration at the terminal. Perturbation analysis for the case when the retrograde motor velocity becomes close to zero predicts uniform cargo distributions along the axon. Our result is limited to small cargo diffusivity, which is a reasonable assumption for many slow axonal transport cargos (such as cytosolic and cytoskeletal proteins, neurofilaments, actin, and microtubules) which are transported as large multiprotein complexes or polymers.

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