Neurofilaments (NFs), which are composed of NF-L, NF-M, and NF-H, are required for the development of normal axonal caliber, a property that in turn is a critical determinant of axonal conduction velocity. To investigate how each subunit contributes to the radial growth of axons, we used transgenic mice to alter the subunit composition of NFs. Increasing each NF subunit individually inhibits radial axonal growth, while increasing both NF-M and NF-H reduces growth even more severely. An increase in NF-L results in an increased filament number but reduced interfilament distance. Conversely, increasing NF-M, NF-H, or both reduces filament number, but does not alter nearest neighbor interfilament distance. Only a combined increase of NF-L with either NF-M or NF-H promotes radial axonal growth. These results demonstrate that both NF-M and NF-H play complementary roles with NF-L in determining normal axonal calibers.

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