The molecular mechanisms that regulate growth cone guidance of dendrite outgrowth remain to be elucidated. We hypothesized that mRNA localization in dendritic growth cones and their local protein synthesis may be important for growth cone functioning. The appearance of 23 of 31 growth cone mRNAs was developmentally regulated. Also, alteration of growth cone morphology affected the relative levels of three mRNAs. Finally, using single dendrite transfection, it was shown that local protein synthesis occurs in dendrites and growth cones. A heterogeneous population of mRNAs exists in dendritic growth cones of cultured hippocampal neurons whose relative abundances are developmentally regulated and can vary with changes in growth cone physiology. The demonstration of protein synthesis in growth cones suggests that translation of the localized mRNAs may contribute to regulation of growth cone motility and dendrite outgrowth.