A Model for Local Regulation of Translation Near Active Synapses

Kenneth S. Kosik1* and Anna M. Krichevsky2

1Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106-5060, USA.
2Department of Neurology, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


*Corresponding author. E-mail: kosik{at}


RNA granules (GR) are macromolecular complexes that contain mRNA, ribosomes and ribosomal subunits, and other components, and serve to sequester these components until translation is needed in response to synaptic activity. In neurons, some RNA granules are docked, whereas others are motile with oscillatory movements. A stimulus induces reorganization and positional readjustment of granules in relation to a cluster of synapses and local release of stored mRNA, ribosomes, and translation factors. The release of these components and the translation of the released mRNAs may contribute to the long-lasting changes associated with synaptic activity, so-called synaptic plasticity. Synaptic plasticity is believed to underlie such processes as memory formation.

Abbreviations used in the animation include P, preexisting polysomes; R, preexisting clusters of ribosomes; MT, microtubules.

Note that the first version of the animation published stopped functioning when the QuickTime player was updated. A newer version of the animation file was made available on 14 May 2010. Please view the animation from the "Access Updated Animation" link below.

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Educational Details

Learning Resource Type: Animation

Context: Undergraduate upper division, graduate, professional (degree program)

Intended Users: Teacher, learner

Intended Educational Use: Teach, learn

Discipline: Neurobiology, Cell Biology, Molecular Biology

Keywords: signal transduction, translation, action potential, synaptic plasticity, mRNA, movie

Technical Details

Format: mov file

Size: 55 kb (original animation), 670 kb (updated animation)

Requirements: This animation will play with any movie player that plays .mov files, such as Quicktime (

Related Resources


K. Kosik, A. Krichevsky, The message and the messenger: Delivering RNA in neurons. Sci. STKE 2002, pe16 (2002). [Abstract] [Full Text]

Limits for Use

Cost: Free

Rights: This material may be downloaded, printed, linked to, and/or redistributed without modification for noncommercial, course-teaching purposes only, provided credit to STKE is included by listing the citation for the Teaching Resource.


Citation: K. S. Kosik, A. M. Krichevsky, A model for local regulation of translation near active synapses. Sci. STKE2005, tr25 (2005).

© 2005 American Association for the Advancement of Science