BMB Rep. 2015; 48(3): 139-146  
Local protein synthesis in neuronal axons: why and how we study
Eunjin Kim & Hosung Jung*
Department of Anatomy, Brain Research Institute, and Brain Korea 21 PLUS Project for Medical Science, Yonsei University College of Medicine, Seoul 120-752, Korea
Correspondence to: Tel: +82-2-2228-1651; Fax: +82-2-365-0700; E-mail: hosungjung@yonsei.ac.kr
Received: January 20, 2015; Published online: March 31, 2015.
© Korean Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. All rights reserved.

Abstract
Adaptive brain function and synaptic plasticity rely on dynamic regulation of local proteome. One way for the neuron to introduce new proteins to the axon terminal is to transport those from the cell body, which had long been thought as the only source of axonal proteins. Another way, which is the topic of this review, is synthesizing proteins on site by local mRNA translation. Recent evidence indicates that the axon stores a reservoir of translationally silent mRNAs and regulates their expression solely by translational control. Different stimuli to axons, such as guidance cues, growth factors, and nerve injury, promote translation of selective mRNAs, a process required for the axon’s ability to respond to these cues. One of the critical questions in the field of axonal protein synthesis is how mRNA-specific local translation is regulated by extracellular cues. Here, we review current experimental techniques that can be used to answer this question. Furthermore, we discuss how new technologies can help us understand what biological processes are regulated by axonal protein synthesis in vivo.
Keywords: Axon, Axon-TRAP, BONCAT, Boyden chamber, Campenot chamber, Compartmentalized culture, Laser capture microdissection, Local mRNA translation, Microfluidic device, Neuron, Protein synthesis, Puromycin tagging, Ribosome, SILAC


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