Neurotransmitter receptors are considered an important class of membrane proteins that are involved in plasticity-induced changes underlying learning and memory. Recent studies, which demonstrated that the mRNAs encoding for various receptor proteins are localized to specific dendritic domains, allude toward the possibility that these membrane bound molecules may be synthesized locally. However, direct evidence for the local axonal or dendritic synthesis and functional integration of receptor proteins in either vertebrates or invertebrates is still lacking. In this study, using an invertebrate model system we provide the first direct evidence that isolated axons (in the absence of the soma) can intrinsically synthesize and functionally integrate a membrane-bound receptor protein from an axonally injected mRNA. Surgically isolated axons from identified neurons were injected with mRNA encoding a G-protein-coupled conopressin receptor. Immunocytochemical and electrophysiological techniques were used to demonstrate functional integration of the receptor protein into the membrane of the isolated axon. Ultrastructural analysis of axonal compartments revealed polyribosomes, suggesting that some components of the protein synthesizing machinery are indeed present in these extrasomal compartments. Such axonal propensity to locally synthesize and functionally insert transmitter receptors may be instrumental in plasticity induced changes, for instance those that underlie learning and memory.
Copyright 2000 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.