Peripheral nerve axons contain machinery for co-translational secretion of axonally-generated proteins
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- Merianda, T. & Twiss, J. Neurosci. Bull. (2013) 29: 493. doi:10.1007/s12264-013-1360-9
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The axonal compartment of developing neurons and mature peripheral nervous system (PNS) neurons has the capacity to locally synthesize proteins. Axonally-synthesized proteins have been shown to facilitate axonal pathfinding and maintenance in developing central nervous system (CNS) and PNS neurons, and to facilitate the regeneration of mature PNS neurons. RNA-profiling studies of the axons of cultured neurons have shown a surprisingly complex population of mRNAs that encode proteins for a myriad of functions. Although classic-appearing rough endoplasmic reticulum (RER), smooth endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and Golgi apparatus have not been documented in axons by ultrastructural studies, axonal RNA profiling studies show several membrane and secreted protein-encoding mRNAs whose translation products would need access to a localized secretory mechanism. We previously showed that the axons of cultured neurons contain functional equivalents of RER and Golgi apparatus. Here, we show that markers for the signal-recognition particle, RER, ER, and Golgi apparatus are present in PNS axons in vivo. Co-localization of these proteins mirrors that seen for cultured axons where locally-translated proteins are localized to the axoplasmic membrane. Moreover, nerve injury increases the levels and/or aggregation of these proteins, suggesting that the regenerating axon has an increased capacity for membrane targeting of locally synthesized proteins.