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mRNA localization and local translation in neurons

1 Lincoln College, University of Oxford, Turl Street, Oxford, OX1 3DR, United Kingdom
2 Merton College, University of Oxford, Merton Street, Oxford, OX1 4DJ, United Kingdom
3 Sir William Dunn School of Pathology, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3RE, United Kingdom

The spatial and temporal regulation of gene expression in neurons is an important step in creating functional and structural neuronal networks. The complexity of neurons require differential expression of various proteins in different compartments. Highly polarised cells, such as neurons, respond rapidly to different external stimuli by changing their local protein abundance and composition. Neurons can have extensions up to a meter away from their cell body in humans, so it is easy to envisage why they need to manage the synthesis of new proteins locally and on-demand. Recent research has demonstrated that neurons can control the expression of different proteins by localising translationally silent mRNAs, followed by subsequent translation. Neurons use mRNA localization and local translation to achieve different purposes during their life cycle. While developing neurons rely on mRNA localization for axon guidance and synaptogenesis, mature neurons can use mRNA localization for maintenance of essential physiological processes. mRNA localization also plays a role in response to neuron injury to regenerate and restore neuronal connections. Recent microscopic imaging techniques such as live imaging of fluorescently tagged molecules combined with genetic and biochemical studies in neurons have illustrated evolutionarily conserved mechanisms for targeting mRNAs into their correct compartments. This review provides an overview of mRNA localization and local translation in vertebrate and invertebrate neurons and discusses the mechanism by which mRNAs are trafficked into axons. Furthermore, the role of mRNA localization in synaptic activation, as well as axonal injury is explored.
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© 2020 the Author(s), licensee AIMS Press. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Licese (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)

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