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Efficient degradation of autophagic vacuoles (AVs) generated at axon terminals by mature lysosomes enriched in the cell body represents an exceptional challenge that neurons face in maintaining cellular homeostasis. Here, we discuss our recent findings revealing a lipid-mediated impairment of lysosome transport to distal axons contributing to axonal AV accumulation in the neurodegenerative lysosomal storage disorder Niemann-Pick disease type C (NPC). Using transmission electron microscopy, we observed a striking buildup of endocytic and autophagic organelles in NPC dystrophic axons, indicating defects in the clearance of organelles destined for lysosomal degradation. We further revealed that elevated cholesterol on NPC lysosome membranes abnormally sequesters motor-adaptors of axonal lysosome delivery, resulting in impaired anterograde lysosome transport into distal axons that disrupts maturation of axonal AVs during their retrograde transport route. Together, our study demonstrates a mechanism by which altered membrane lipid composition compromises axonal lysosome trafficking and positioning and shows that lowering lysosomal lipid levels rescues lysosome transport into NPC axons, thus reducing axonal autophagic stress at early stages of NPC disease.

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Niemann-Pick disease type C, autophagy, axonal dystrophy, axonal transport, cholesterol, kinesin, lipid, lysosomal storage disorder, lysosome, neurodegeneration