PerspectiveMolecular Biology

mRNA, Live and Unmasked

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Science  24 Jan 2014:
Vol. 343, Issue 6169, pp. 375-376
DOI: 10.1126/science.1249623

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The localization of messenger RNA (mRNA) within a cell provides the opportunity for proteins to be expressed in specific subcellular compartments. This allows regions of the cell to be functionalized or modified in response to environmental cues. In neurons, long-term memory formation and synaptic plasticity require local protein synthesis at or near synapses (1). Granules comprising mRNAs and RNA binding proteins are transported within a cell, and their formation is regulated by signaling pathways (2, 3). On pages 422 and 419 in this issue, respectively, Park et al. (4) and Buxbaum et al. (5) visualize and characterize the dynamics of an endogenous mRNA. In neurons, mRNA encoding β-actin became transiently available for local translation after being released or unmasked from a latent complex. This first glimpse of endogenous mRNA behavior raises interesting questions about how RNA dynamics are coupled to translation.