• central nervous system;
  • dynein–dynactin complex;
  • neurodegenerative diseases;
  • neurone

Aims: The dynein–dynactin complex, mostly recognized for axonal retrograde transport in neurones, has an ever growing list of essential subcellular functions. Here, the distribution of complex subunits in human central nervous system (CNS) has been assessed using immunohistochemistry in order to test the hypothesis that this may be altered in neurodegenerative disease. Methods: Three dynactin and two dynein subunits were immunolocalized in the CNS of human post mortem sections from motor neurone disease, Alzheimer's disease and patients with no neurological disease. Results: Unexpectedly, coordinated distribution of complex subunits was not evident, even in normal tissues. Complex subunits were differentially localized in brain and spinal cord, and localization of certain subunits, but not others, occurred in pathological structures of motor neurone and Alzheimer's diseases. Conclusions: These results suggest that dynein–dynactin complex subunits may have specific subcellular roles, and primary events that disturb the function of individual components may result in disequilibrium of subunit pools, with the possibility that availability for normal cytoplasmic functions becomes impaired, with consequent organelle and axonal transport misfunction.