Neuronal messenger ribonucleoprotein transport follows an aging Lévy walk

Nat Commun. 2018 Jan 24;9(1):344. doi: 10.1038/s41467-017-02700-z.


Localization of messenger ribonucleoproteins (mRNPs) plays an essential role in the regulation of gene expression for long-term memory formation and neuronal development. Knowledge concerning the nature of neuronal mRNP transport is thus crucial for understanding how mRNPs are delivered to their target synapses. Here, we report experimental and theoretical evidence that the active transport dynamics of neuronal mRNPs, which is distinct from the previously reported motor-driven transport, follows an aging Lévy walk. Such nonergodic, transient superdiffusion occurs because of two competing dynamic phases: the motor-involved ballistic run and static localization of mRNPs. Our proposed Lévy walk model reproduces the experimentally extracted key dynamic characteristics of mRNPs with quantitative accuracy. Moreover, the aging status of mRNP particles in an experiment is inferred from the model. This study provides a predictive theoretical model for neuronal mRNP transport and offers insight into the active target search mechanism of mRNP particles in vivo.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Transport
  • Gene Expression
  • Hippocampus / metabolism*
  • Memory, Long-Term
  • Mice
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Ribonucleoproteins / metabolism*


  • Ribonucleoproteins
  • messenger ribonucleoprotein