Typical neurons of the central nervous system (CNS) elaborate tens of thousands of membrane specializations at sites of synaptic contacts on their dendrites. To construct, maintain, and modify these specializations, neurons must produce and deliver the appropriate molecular constituents to particular synaptic sites. Previous studies have revealed that polyribosomes are selectively positioned beneath postsynaptic sites1,2 suggesting that in neurons, as in other cell types3-8,19, protein synthetic machinery is located at or near the sites where particular proteins are needed. The mechanisms that deliver ribosomes and messenger RNA to their specific destinations in cells are therefore of considerable interest. Here we describe a system for RNA transport in dendrites that could provide a mechanism for the delivery of ribosomes and mRNA to synaptic sites in dendrites. Hippocampal neurons grown in culture incorporate 3H-uridine in the nucleus, then selectively transport the newly synthesized RNA into dendrites at a rate of about 0.5 mm day-1. The transport is inhibited by metabolic poisons, suggesting that it is an active, energy-dependent process. The RNA may be transported in association with the cytoskeleton.
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