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Axon Meaning

In vertebrates, an axon, also defined as a nerve fibre, is a long, slender projection of a nerve cell, or neuron, which emits electrical impulses recognized as action potentials far from the body of nerve cell. The axon's job is to communicate information between muscles, neurons, and glands.

The axons of some sensory neurons (pseudounipolar neurons), including those for contact and temperature, are considered as afferent nerve fibres, and also the electrical impulse passes through them from the periphery to the body of the cell, and then along another portion of the very same axon to the spinal cord.

Many hereditary and acquired neurological disorders have been linked to axon dysfunction, which can influence both peripheral and central neurons. Group A nerve fibers, group B nerve fibers, and group C nerve fibres are the three groups of nerve fibres. Myelinated groups A and B are myelinated, whereas unmyelinated group C is unmyelinated. Both sensory and motor fibres are included in these categories. Type I, Type II, Type III, and Type IV are four different classifications for sensory fibres.


Axons tend to be the nervous system's main communication lines, and they bundle together to form nerves. Most axons can reach a length of one metre or more, whereas others only reach a length of one millimetre. The sciatic nerve's axons, that stretch from the bottom of the spinal cord to the biggest toe of the foot, are the largest throughout the human body. The diameter of axons varies as well. Specific axons are usually microscopic in size (around one micrometre (m) along all). The biggest mammalian axons may measure up to 20 metres in diameter. The squid giant axon is about 1 millimetre in diameter, about the measures of a single pencil lead, and is specialised to execute signals very quickly.

The total of axonal telodendria (branching structures just at the terminal of an axon) varies throughout nerve fibre to nerve fibre. Multiple telodendria and several synaptic end points are typical of axons in the central nervous system (CNS). The cerebellar granule cell axon, on the other hand, is distinguished by a specific T-shaped branch node through which two parallel fibres spread. Within a specific brain region, extensive branching leads to continuous transmission of information to a wide range of target neurons.

In the nervous system, there have been 2 kinds of axons: myelinated axons and unmyelinated axons. Schwann cells and oligodendrocytes are two different types of glial cells that produce myelin, a fatty insulating layer. Schwann cells form the myelin sheath of myelinated axons throughout the peripheral nervous system.

Action Potentials

The majority of axons bear messages in the form of action potentials, that are distinct electrochemical impulses which effectively move through an axon from the cell body to locations where the axon creates synaptic contact towards target cells, beginning at the cell body and ending at points where the axon establishes synaptic contact towards target cells.

An action potential is defined by the fact that it would be "all-or-nothing" — each action potential produced by an axon is effectively the similar shape and size. This all-or-nothing feature enables action potentials to be transferred with no size reduction through one end of the long axon to another. Some kinds of neurons, on the other hand, have short axons that bear graded electrochemical signals of varying amplitude.

Classification: The Axon Biology

The physical characteristics and signal conduction properties of axons in the human peripheral nervous system could be used to identify them. Different thicknesses of axons (ranging from 0.1 to 20 m) being identified, and these variations were assumed to be related to the pace at which an action potential could pass throughout the axon – its conductance velocity. Erlanger and Gasser developed a relationship between both the diameter of a nerve axon and its nerve conduction velocity, confirming this theory and defining many forms of nerve fibre. In 1941, they reported their results, which included the earliest axon classification.

There are two classification schemes for axons.

The first, proposed by Erlanger and Gasser, used the characters A, B, and C to divide the fibres into three classes. The sensory fibres (afferents) and motor fibres (motor fibres) are divided into three groups: group A, group B, and group C. (efferents). The first party, A, was split into alpha, gamma, beta, and delta fibres — A∝, Aβ, A⋎ and Aδ respectively.

The Lower motor neurons including alpha motor neuron, beta motor neuron, and gamma motor neuron with the A∝, Aβ, and A⋎ nerve fibres respectively – have been the motor neurons with the various motor fibres.

Some researchers later found two classes of Aa fibres which were sensory fibres. These were then put into a device which only had sensory fibres in it. Type Ia, Type Ib, Type II, Type III, and Type IV are the Roman numerals for the sensory classes in this scheme.

Clinical Significance

A nerve damage is classified as axonotmesis, neurapraxia, or neurotmesis, in order of severity. Concussion is a type of diffuse axonal injury that is regarded mild. Central chromatolysis could also be caused by axonal injury. Many hereditary neurological disorders which influence both peripheral and central neurons are caused by axon dysfunction throughout the nervous system.

Whenever a nerve axon is damaged, the portion of the axon the farthest from the body of the cell undergoes active axonal degeneration. Further to the injury, a portion of the axon is closed off at the membranes and decomposed by macrophages, resulting in rapid degeneration. Wallerian degeneration is the term for this. According to research, axonal degeneration occurs when the axonal protein NMNAT2 is blocked from reaching all of the axon.

Multiple sclerosis is characterised by the demyelination of axons, which results in a wide range of neurological symptoms.

The irregular structure of the myelin sheath is known as dysmyelination. This has been linked to a number of leukodystrophies, as well as schizophrenia.

Diffuse axonal damage occurs when a serious traumatic brain injury produces widespread lesions to nerve tracts, destroying the axons. This may result in a vegetative state that lasts for a long time. Axonal injury from a specific mild traumatic brain injury was seen in rat studies to create a susceptibility to even further injury following multiple mild traumatic brain injuries.

A nerve direction conduit is an artificial way of directing axon development to allow neuroregeneration, and this is one of several treatments for various types of nerve injuries.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Q1. Define Synapse.

Ans. The synapse is a tiny area of space amongst two cells in which they can exchange messages. Thousands of synapses can be found in a single neuron. In reality, a single kind of neuron, the Purkinje cell, located in the cerebellum of the brain, can have up to 100,000 synapses.

Q2. What are the Axon Dendrites?

Ans. The receiving end of the neuron is called the axon dendrites. Axons send synaptic inputs to dendrites, and the number of dendritic inputs decides if the neuron fires an action potential. 

A cell nucleus, the axons and dendrites are all present in most neurons. The nucleus and cytoplasm are located in the cell body. Until terminating at nerve terminals, the axon spreads from the cell body and also leads to several smaller branches. Dendrites branch out from the cell body of the neuron and accept signals from all other neurons.