Electrical activity in neurons is generally initiated in dendritic processes then propagated along axons to synapses, where it is passed to other neurons. Major structural features of neurons - their dendrites and axons - are thus related to their fundamental functions: the receipt and transmission of information. The acquisition of these distinct properties by dendrites and axons, called polarization, is a critical step in neuronal differentiation. We show here that SAD-A and SAD-B, mammalian orthologs of a kinase needed for presynaptic differentiation in Caenorhabditis elegans, are required for neuronal polarization. These kinases will provide entry points for unraveling signaling mechanisms that polarize neurons.
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