Molecular determinants of the axonal mRNA transcriptome



Axonal protein synthesis has been shown to play a role in developmental and regenerative growth, as well as in cell body responses to axotomy. Recent studies have begun to identify the protein products that contribute to these autonomous responses of axons. In the peripheral nervous system, intra-axonal protein synthesis has been implicated in the localized in vivo responses to neuropathic stimuli, and there is emerging evidence for protein synthesis in CNS axons in vivo. Despite that hundreds of mRNAs have now been shown to localize into the axonal compartment, knowledge of what RNA binding proteins are responsible for this is quite limited. Here, we review the current state of knowledge of RNA transport mechanisms and highlight recently uncovered mechanisms for dynamically altering the axonal transcriptome. Both changes in the levels or activities of components of the RNA transport apparatus and alterations in transcription of transported mRNAs can effectively shift the axonal mRNA population. Consistent with this, the axonal RNA population shifts with development, with changes in growth state, and in response to extracellular stimulation. Each of these events must impact the transcriptional and transport apparatuses of the neuron, thus directly and indirectly modifying the axonal transcriptome. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Develop Neurobiol 74: 218–232, 2014