The NEFL gene provides instructions for making the smallest protein component (the light subunit) of neurofilaments, which are essential for normal nerve cell function. Neurofilaments are assembled from light, medium, and heavy subunits. They form a structural framework that helps to define the shape and size of nerve cells. Cross-linking or bridging between neurofilaments maintains the diameter of the fiber, or axon, that extends from a nerve cell. Maintaining the proper axon diameter is essential for the transmission of nerve impulses.
Researchers have identified more than 10 NEFL gene mutations that cause two forms of Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease known as type 1F and type 2E. Most NEFL gene mutations change single protein building blocks (amino acids) in the neurofilament light subunit. Other mutations delete or duplicate part of the NEFL gene, which alters the instructions for making the neurofilament light subunit. NEFL gene mutations probably alter the size or shape of neurofilament light subunits.
Altered neurofilament light subunits likely disrupt the assembly of neurofilaments or their transport to the axon. These disruptions may cause abnormalities in axons and impair the transmission of nerve impulses. Abnormalities in axons are a sign of type 2E Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease. In some cases, a reduced axon diameter may result in decreased nerve signal transmission speed, which is characteristic of type 1F Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease.
- neurofilament triplet L protein
- neurofilament, light polypeptide
- neurofilament, light polypeptide 68kDa