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J Neurosci. 2003 Oct 1;23(26):8859-66.

A molecular mechanism for mRNA trafficking in neuronal dendrites.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Queensland, Queensland 4072, Australia.


Specific neuronal mRNAs are localized in dendrites, often concentrated in dendritic spines and spine synapses, where they are translated. The molecular mechanism of localization is mostly unknown. Here we have explored the roles of A2 response element (A2RE), a cis-acting signal for oligodendrocyte RNA trafficking, and its cognate trans-acting factor, heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoprotein (hnRNP) A2, in neurons. Fluorescently labeled chimeric RNAs containing A2RE were microinjected into hippocampal neurons, and RNA transport followed using confocal laser scanning microscopy. These RNA molecules, but not RNA lacking the A2RE sequence, were transported in granules to the distal neurites. hnRNP A2 protein was implicated as the cognate trans-acting factor: it was colocalized with RNA in cytoplasmic granules, and RNA trafficking in neurites was compromised by A2RE mutations that abrogate hnRNP A2 binding. Coinjection of antibodies to hnRNP A2 halved the number of trafficking cells, and treatment of neurons with antisense oligonucleotides also disrupted A2RE-RNA transport. Colchicine inhibited trafficking, whereas cells treated with cytochalasin were unaffected, implicating involvement of microtubules rather than microfilaments. A2RE-like sequences are found in a subset of dendritically localized mRNAs, which, together with these results, suggests that a molecular mechanism based on this cis-acting sequence may contribute to dendritic RNA localization.

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