Polyribosomal complexes beneath postsynaptic sites on dendrites provide a substrate for local translation of particular mRNAs, but the signals that target mRNAs to synapses remain to be defined. Here, we report that high frequency activation of the perforant path projections to the dentate gyrus causes newly synthesized mRNA for the immediate-early gene (IEG) Arc to localize selectively in activated dendritic segments. Newly synthesized Arc protein also accumulates in the portion of the dendrite that had been synaptically activated. The targeting of Arc mRNA was not disrupted by locally inhibiting protein synthesis, indicating that the signals for mRNA localization reside in the mRNA itself. This novel mechanism through which newly synthesized mRNA is precisely targeted to activated synapses is well suited to play a role in the enduring forms of activity-dependent synaptic modification that require protein synthesis.
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