Understanding the importance of mRNA transport in memory

Prog Brain Res. 2008;169:41-58. doi: 10.1016/S0079-6123(07)00003-9.


RNA localization is an important mechanism to sort proteins to specific subcellular domains. In neurons, several mRNAs are localized in dendrites and their presence allows autonomous control of local translation in response to stimulation of specific synapses. Active constitutive and activity-induced mechanisms of mRNA transport have been described that represent critical steps in the establishment and maintenance of synaptic plasticity. In recent years, the molecular composition of different transporting units has been reported and the identification of proteins and mRNAs in these RNA granules contributes to our understanding of the key steps that regulate mRNA transport and translation. Although RNA granules are heterogeneous, several proteins are common to different RNA granule populations, suggesting that they play important roles in the formation of the granules and/or their regulation during transport and translation. About 1-4% of the neuron transcriptome is found in RNA granules and the characterization of bound mRNAs reveal that they encode proteins of the cytoskeleton, the translation machinery, vesicle trafficking, and/or proteins involved in synaptic plasticity. Non-coding RNAs and microRNAs are also found in dendrites and likely regulate RNA translation. These mechanisms of mRNA transport and local translation are critical for synaptic plasticity mediated by activity or experience and memory.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Transport
  • Humans
  • Long-Term Potentiation / genetics
  • Long-Term Potentiation / physiology
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Protein Biosynthesis
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism*


  • RNA, Messenger