Targeting axonal protein synthesis in neuroregeneration and degeneration

Neurotherapeutics. 2015 Jan;12(1):57-65. doi: 10.1007/s13311-014-0308-8.


Localized protein synthesis is a mechanism by which morphologically polarized cells react in a spatially confined and temporally acute manner to changes in their environment. During the development of the nervous system intra-axonal protein synthesis is crucial for the establishment of neuronal connections. In contrast, mature axons have long been considered as translationally inactive but upon nerve injury or under neurodegenerative conditions specific subsets of mRNAs are recruited into axons and locally translated. Intra-axonally synthesized proteins can have pathogenic or restorative and regenerative functions, and thus targeting the axonal translatome might have therapeutic value, for example in the treatment of spinal cord injury or Alzheimer's disease. In the case of Alzheimer's disease the local synthesis of the stress response transcription factor activating transcription factor 4 mediates the long-range retrograde spread of pathology across the brain, and inhibition of local Atf4 translation downstream of the integrated stress response might interfere with this spread. Several molecular tools and approaches have been developed to target specifically the axonal translatome by either overexposing proteins locally in axons or, conversely, knocking down selectively axonally localized mRNAs. Many questions about axonal translation remain to be answered, especially with regard to the mechanisms establishing specificity but, nevertheless, targeting the axonal translatome is a promising novel avenue to pursue in the development for future therapies for various neurological conditions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Nerve Degeneration / metabolism*
  • Nerve Regeneration / physiology*
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / metabolism
  • Protein Biosynthesis / physiology*