Cue-Polarized Transport of β-actin mRNA Depends on 3’UTR and Microtubules in Live Growth Cones.


Guidance cues trigger fast responses in axonal growth cones such as directional turning and collapse that require local protein synthesis. An attractive cue-gradient, such as Netrin-1, triggers de novo synthesis of β-actin localized to the near-side compartment of the growth cone that promotes F-actin assembly and attractive steering. How this precise spatial asymmetry in mRNA translation arises across the small expanse of the growth cone is poorly understood. Pre-localized mRNAs in the vicinity of activated receptors could be selectively translated and/or new mRNAs could be trafficked into the area. Here we have performed live imaging of fluorescent-tagged β-actin mRNA to investigate mRNA trafficking dynamics in Xenopus retinal ganglion cell (RGC) axons and growth cones in response to Netrin-1. A Netrin-1 gradient was found to elicit the transport of β-actin mRNA granules to the near-side of growth cones within a 4-7 min window. This polarized mRNA trafficking depended on the 3' untranslated region (UTR) since mRNA-Δ3'UTR mutant failed to exhibit cue-induced localization. Global application of Netrin-1 significantly increased the anterograde movement of β-actin mRNA along axons and also promoted microtubule-dependent mRNA excursions from the central domain of the growth cone into the periphery (filopodia and lamellipodia). Dual channel imaging revealed β-actin mRNA riding behind the microtubule plus-end tracking protein, EB1, in movements along dynamic microtubules into filopodia. The mRNA-EB1 movements were unchanged by a Netrin-1 gradient indicating the dynamic microtubules themselves do not underlie the cue-induced polarity of RNA movement. Finally, fast-moving elongated "worm-like" trains of Cy3-RNA, distinct from mitochondria, were seen transporting RNA along axons in vitro and in vivo suggesting the existence of a novel transport organelle. Overall, the results provide evidence that the axonal trafficking of β-actin mRNA can be regulated by the guidance cue Netrin-1 to transduce the polarity of an extracellular stimulus and that the 3'UTR is essential for this cue-induced regulation.