Diffuse axonal injury in brain trauma: insights from alterations in neurofilaments
Siedler, DG and Chuah, MI and Kirkcaldie, MTK and Vickers, JC and King, AE, Diffuse axonal injury in brain trauma: insights from alterations in neurofilaments, Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience, 8 Article 429. ISSN 1662-5102 (2014) [Refereed Article]
Traumatic brain injury from penetrating or closed forces to the cranium can result in a range of forms of neural damage, which culminate in mortality or impart mild to significant neurological disability. In this regard, diffuse axonal injury is a major neuronal pathophenotype of traumatic brain injury and is associated with a complex set of cytoskeletal changes. The neurofilament triplet proteins are key structural cytoskeletal elements, which may also be important contributors to the tensile strength of axons. This has significant implications with respect to how axons may respond to traumatic brain injury. It is not known, however, whether neurofilament compaction and the cytoskeletal changes that evolve following axonal injury represent a component of a protective mechanism following damage, or whether they serve to augment degeneration and progression to secondary axotomy. Here we review the structure and role of neurofilament proteins in normal neuronal function. We also discuss the processes that characterize diffuse axonal injury and the resultant alterations in neurofilaments, highlighting potential clues to a possible protective or degenerative influence of specific neurofilament alterations within injured neurons. The potential utility of neurofilament assays as biomarkers for axonal injury is also discussed. Insights into the complex alterations in neurofilaments will contribute to future efforts in developing therapeutic strategies to prevent, ameliorate or reverse neuronal degeneration in the CNS following traumatic injury.