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To the End of the Line: Axonal mRNA transport and local translation in health and neurodegenerative disease.
Axons and growth cones, by their very nature far removed from the cell body, encounter unique environments and require distinct populations of proteins. It seems only natural, then, that they have developed mechanisms to locally synthesize a host of proteins required to perform their specialized functions. Acceptance of this ability has taken decades; however, there is now consensus that axons do indeed have the capacity for local translation, and that this capacity is even retained into adulthood. Accumulating evidence supports the role of locally synthesized proteins in the proper development, maintenance, and function of neurons, and newly emerging studies also suggest that disruption in this process has implications in a number of neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative diseases. Here, we briefly review the long history of axonal mRNA localization and local translation, and the role that these locally synthesized proteins play in normal neuronal function. Additionally, we highlight the emerging evidence that dysregulation in these processes contributes to a wide range of pathophysiology, including neuropsychiatric disorders, Alzheimer's, and motor neuron diseases such as Spinal Muscular Atrophy and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.