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Neuroscientist. 2004 Dec;10(6):495-500.

Moving molecules: mRNA trafficking in Mammalian oligodendrocytes and neurons.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Queensland, Queensland, Australia.


Numerous mRNA molecules are localized in regions of the dendrites of neurons, some moving along dendrites in response to synaptic activity. The proteins encoded by these RNAs have diverse functions, including participation in memory formation and long-term potentiation. Recent experiments have shown that a cytoplasmic RNA trafficking pathway described for oligodendrocytes also operates in neurons. Transported RNAs possess a cis-acting element that directs them to granules, which are transported along microtubules by the motor proteins kinesin and dynein. These RNA molecules are recruited to the cytoplasmic transport granules by cooperative interaction with a cognate trans-acting factor. mRNAs containing the 11-nucleotide A2RE11 or 21-nucleotide A2RE sequences bind heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoproteins A2 and A3, which are abundant in the brain. Mutations in this cis-acting element that weaken its interaction with hnRNP A2 also interfere with RNA trafficking. Several dendritically localized mRNAs, including those encoding calcium-calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II alpha subunit and neurogranin, possess A2RE-like sequences, suggesting that they may be localized by interaction with these heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoproteins. Calcium-calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II alpha subunit is of particular interest: Its RNA is transported in depolarized neurons, and the protein it encodes is essential for establishing long-term memory. Several other cis-acting sequences and trans-acting factors that participate in neuronal RNA localization have been discovered.

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