NEUROSCIENCE: Activity-dependent spatially localized miRNA maturation in neuronal dendrites

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MicroRNAs (miRNAs) regulate gene expression by binding to target messenger RNAs (mRNAs) and preventing their translation. In general, the number of potential mRNA targets in a cell is much greater than the miRNA copy number, complicating high-fidelity miRNA-target interactions. We developed an inducible fluorescent probe to explore whether the maturation of a miRNA could be regulated in space and time in neurons. A precursor miRNA (pre-miRNA) probe exhibited an activity-dependent increase in fluorescence, suggesting the stimulation of miRNA maturation. Single-synapse stimulation resulted in a local maturation of miRNA that was associated with a spatially restricted reduction in the protein synthesis of a target mRNA. Thus, the spatially and temporally regulated maturation of pre-miRNAs can be used to increase the precision and robustness of miRNA-mediated translational repression.

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