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Abstract

mRNA stability is increasingly recognized as being essential for controlling the expression of a wide variety of transcripts during neuronal development and synaptic plasticity. In this context, the role of AU-rich elements (ARE) contained within the 3′ untranslated region (UTR) of transcripts has now emerged as key because of their high incidence in a large number of cellular mRNAs. This important regulatory element is known to significantly modulate the longevity of mRNAs by interacting with available stabilizing or destabilizing RNA-binding proteins (RBP). Thus, in parallel with the emergence of ARE, RBP are also gaining recognition for their pivotal role in regulating expression of a variety of mRNAs. In the nervous system, the member of the Hu family of ARE-binding proteins known as HuD, has recently been implicated in multiple aspects of neuronal function including the commitment and differentiation of neuronal precursors as well as synaptic remodeling in mature neurons. Through its ability to interact with ARE and stabilize multiple transcripts, HuD has now emerged as an important regulator of mRNA expression in neurons. The present review is designed to provide a comprehensive and updated view of HuD as an RBP in the nervous system. Additionally, we highlight the role of HuD in multiple aspects of a neuron's life from early differentiation to changes in mature neurons during learning paradigms and in response to injury and regeneration. Finally, we describe the current state of knowledge concerning the molecular and cellular events regulating the expression and activity of HuD in neurons. BioEssays 28: 822–833, 2006. © 2006 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.