Segregation of mRNAs in the cytoplasm of polar cells has been demonstrated for proteins involved in Xenopus and Drosophila oogenesis, and for some proteins in somatic cells. It is assumed that vectorial transport of the messages is generally responsible for this localization. The mRNA encoding the basic protein of central nervous system myelin is selectively transported to the distal ends of the processes of oligodendrocytes, where it is anchored to the myelin membrane and translated. This transport is dependent on a 21-nucleotide cis-acting segment of the 3'-untranslated region (RTS). Proteins that bind to this cis-acting segment have now been isolated from extracts of rat brain. A group of six 35-42-kDa proteins bind to a 35-base oligoribonucleotide incorporating the RTS, but not to several oligoribonucleotides with the same composition but randomized sequences, thus establishing specificity for the base sequence in the RTS. The most abundant of these proteins has been identified, by Edman sequencing of tryptic peptides and mass spectroscopy, as heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoprotein (hnRNP) A2, a 36-kDa member of a family of proteins that are primarily, but not solely, intranuclear. This protein was most abundant in samples from rat brain and testis, with lower amounts in other tissues. It was separated from the other polypeptides by using reverse-phase HPLC and shown to retain preferential association with the RTS. In cultured oligodendrocytes, hnRNP A2 was demonstrated by confocal microscopy to be distributed throughout the nucleus, cell soma, and processes.