The structural basis for the synthesis of specific proteins within distinct intraneuronal compartments is unknown. We studied the distribution of poly(A) mRNA within cultured cerebrocortical neurons using high resolution in situ hybridization to identify cytoskeletal components that may anchor mRNA. After 1 day in culture, poly(A) mRNA was distributed throughout all of the initial neurites, including the axon-like process. At 4 days in culture, poly(A) mRNA was distributed throughout the cell body and dendritic processes, but confined to the proximal segment of the axon. Poly(A) mRNA was bound to the cytoskeleton as demonstrated by resistance to detergent extraction. Perturbation of microtubules with colchicine resulted in a major reduction of dendritic poly(A) mRNA; however, this distribution was unaffected by cytochalasin. Ultrastructural in situ hybridization revealed that poly(A) mRNA and associated ribosomes were excluded from tightly bundled microtubules.