The cytoplasmic polyadenylation element binding (CPEB) proteins are sequence-specific mRNA binding proteins that control translation in development, health, and disease. CPEB1, the founding member of this family, has become an important model for illustrating general principles of translational control by cytoplasmic polyadenylation in gametogenesis, cancer etiology, synaptic plasticity, learning, and memory. Although the biological functions of the other members of this protein family in vertebrates are just beginning to emerge, it is already evident that they, too, mediate important processes, such as cancer etiology and higher cognitive function. In Drosophila, the CPEB proteins Orb and Orb2 play key roles in oogenesis and in neuronal function, as do related proteins in Caenorhabditis elegans and Aplysia. We review the biochemical features of the CPEB proteins, discuss their activities in several biological systems, and illustrate how understanding CPEB activity in model organisms has an important impact on neurological disease.
Keywords: CPEB; Orb; cancer; cytoplasmic polyadenylation element binding protein; development; learning and memory; polyadenylation; translation.