Synapse-specific memories

Since each neuron has a single nucleus but can form thousands of synaptic connections, the requirement for transcription during synaptic plasticity raises the question of how the products of gene expression can be targeted to alter synaptic strength at select synapses made by a given neuron. We have found that one important mechanism involves the translation of synaptically localized mRNAs. Current research addresses the following questions: 1) what is the population of localized mRNAs in neurons? 2) how do mRNAs localize to synapses—what are the cis-acting RNA localization elements and the trans-acting RNA binding proteins? 3) how does synapse formation and/or synaptic stimulation regulate either the trafficking or the translation of localized transcripts? 4) what is the function of local translation in memory formation? From a broad perspective, we would like to understand how gene expression can be spatially and temporally regulated at the level of the synapse, and how this local translational regulation is coordinated and integrated with transcriptional changes in the neuron.