The many functions of mRNA localization during normal development and disease: from pillar to post

Wiley Interdiscip Rev Dev Biol. 2013 Nov-Dec;2(6):781-96. doi: 10.1002/wdev.113. Epub 2013 Mar 18.


The regulated intracellular trafficking and localized translation of mRNA molecules represents an important and prevalent mechanism of gene regulation. This process plays a key role in modulating asymmetric protein distribution linked to a wide variety of biological processes in different organisms and cell types. In this review, we begin by discussing the diverse biological functions, advantages, and mechanisms of mRNA localization that have been characterized to date. We then review recent technological innovations in RNA imaging and functional genomics methods that will undoubtedly provide powerful new strategies for the elucidation of mRNA trafficking pathways. Finally, we discuss several examples linking human disease pathogenesis to defects in transcript localization, which further underlines the critical importance of this gene regulatory mechanism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / genetics
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / growth & development
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / metabolism
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics
  • Drosophila melanogaster / growth & development
  • Drosophila melanogaster / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Humans
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Molecular Imaging
  • Muscular Diseases / genetics*
  • Muscular Diseases / metabolism
  • Muscular Diseases / pathology
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / genetics*
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / metabolism
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / pathology
  • Protein Biosynthesis
  • RNA Transport
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics*
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • RNA, Messenger / ultrastructure
  • Staining and Labeling
  • Xenopus laevis / genetics
  • Xenopus laevis / growth & development
  • Xenopus laevis / metabolism


  • RNA, Messenger