Expanding Axonal Transcriptome Brings New Functions for Axonally Synthesized Proteins in Health and Disease

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Intra-axonal protein synthesis has been shown to play critical roles in both development and repair of axons. Axons provide long-range connectivity in the nervous system, and disruption of their function and/or structure is seen in several neurological diseases and disorders. Axonally synthesized proteins or losses in axonally synthesized proteins contribute to neurodegenerative diseases, neuropathic pain, viral transport, and survival of axons. Increasing sensitivity of RNA detection and quantitation coupled with methods to isolate axons to purity has shown that a surprisingly complex transcriptome exists in axons. This extends across different species, neuronal populations, and physiological conditions. These studies have helped define the repertoire of neuronal mRNAs that can localize into axons and imply previously unrecognized functions for local translation in neurons. Here, we review the current state of transcriptomics studies of isolated axons, contrast axonal mRNA profiles between different neuronal types and growth states, and discuss how mRNA transport into and translation within axons contribute to neurological disorders.

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