Synapse- and stimulus-specific local translation during long-term neuronal plasticity

Science. 2009 Jun 19;324(5934):1536-40. doi: 10.1126/science.1173205. Epub 2009 May 14.


Long-term memory and synaptic plasticity require changes in gene expression and yet can occur in a synapse-specific manner. Messenger RNA localization and regulated translation at synapses are thus critical for establishing synapse specificity. Using live-cell microscopy of photoconvertible fluorescent protein translational reporters, we directly visualized local translation at synapses during long-term facilitation of Aplysia sensory-motor synapses. Translation of the reporter required multiple applications of serotonin, was spatially restricted to stimulated synapses, was transcript- and stimulus-specific, and occurred during long-term facilitation but not during long-term depression of sensory-motor synapses. Translational regulation only occurred in the presence of a chemical synapse and required calcium signaling in the postsynaptic motor neuron. Thus, highly regulated local translation occurs at synapses during long-term plasticity and requires trans-synaptic signals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Aplysia
  • Biological Transport
  • Calcium / physiology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • FMRFamide / physiology
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Genes, Reporter
  • Luminescent Proteins / genetics
  • Motor Neurons / physiology
  • Neuronal Plasticity / genetics
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Neuropeptides / genetics
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / genetics
  • Protein Biosynthesis*
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / physiology
  • Serotonin / physiology
  • Synapses / genetics
  • Synapses / physiology*


  • Luminescent Proteins
  • Neuropeptides
  • Neurotransmitter Agents
  • RNA, Messenger
  • sensorin A protein, Aplysia
  • Serotonin
  • FMRFamide
  • Calcium