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Eur J Neurosci. 2004 Aug;20(4):865-72.

Nerve terminals of squid photoreceptor neurons contain a heterogeneous population of mRNAs and translate a transfected reporter mRNA.

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Laboratory of Molecular Biology, National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA.


It is now well established that the distal structural/functional domains of the neuron contain 2a diverse population of mRNAs that program the local synthesis of protein. However, there is still a paucity of information on the composition and function of these mRNA populations in the adult nervous system. To generate empirically, hypotheses regarding the function of the local protein synthetic system, we have compared the mRNAs present in the squid giant axon and its parental cell bodies using differential mRNA display as an unbiased screen. The results of this screen facilitated the identification of 31 mRNAs that encoded cytoskeletal proteins, translation factors, ribosomal proteins, molecular motors, metabolic enzymes, nuclear-encoded mitochondrial mRNAs, and a molecular chaperone. Results of cell fractionation and RT-PCR analyses established that several of these mRNAs were present in polysomes present in the presynaptic nerve terminal of photoreceptor neurons, indicating that these mRNAs were being actively translated. Findings derived from in vitro transfection studies established that these isolated nerve terminals had the ability to translate a heterologous reporter mRNA. Based upon these data, it is hypothesized that the local protein synthetic system plays an important role in the maintenance/remodelling of the cytoarchitecture of the axon and nerve terminal, maintenance of the axon transport and mRNA translation systems, as well as contributing to the viability and function of the local mitochondria.

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