RNAs are present in dendrites and may be used for local protein synthesis in response to synaptic activity. To begin to understand dendritic RNA targeting, we cloned a rat homolog of staufen, a Drosophila gene that participates in mRNA targeting during development. In hippocampal neurons, rat staufen protein displays a microtubule-dependent somatodendritic distribution pattern that overlaps with dendritic RNAs. To determine whether r-staufen is required for dendritic RNA targeting, we constructed a mutant version containing the RNA binding domains (stau-RBD) but lacking the C-terminal portion potentially involved in dendritic targeting. Stau-RBD expression was restricted to the cell bodies and proximal dendrites. Expression of stau-RBD significantly decreased, while overexpression of wild-type r-staufen increased, the amount of dendritic mRNA. Taken together, these results suggest that the rat staufen protein plays an important role in the delivery of RNA to dendrites.
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