We have studied transport and localization of MBP mRNA in oligodendrocytes in culture by microinjecting labeled mRNA into living cells and analyzing the intracellular distribution of the injected RNA by confocal microscopy. Injected mRNA initially appears dispersed in the perikaryon. Within minutes, the RNA forms granules which, in the case of MBP mRNA, are transported down the processes to the periphery of the cell where the distribution again becomes dispersed. In situ hybridization shows that endogenous MBP mRNA in oligodendrocytes also appears as granules in the perikaryon and processes and dispersed in the peripheral membranes. The granules are not released by extraction with non-ionic detergent, indicating that they are associated with the cytoskeletal matrix. Three dimensional visualization indicates that MBP mRNA granules are often aligned in tracks along microtubules traversing the cytoplasm and processes. Several distinct patterns of granule movement are observed. Granules in the processes undergo sustained directional movement with a velocity of approximately 0.2 micron/s. Granules at branch points undergo oscillatory motion with a mean displacement of 0.1 micron/s. Granules in the periphery of the cell circulate randomly with a mean displacement of approximately 1 micron/s. The results are discussed in terms of a multi-step pathway for transport and localization of MBP mRNA in oligodendrocytes. This work represents the first characterization of intracellular movement of mRNA in living cells, and the first description of the role of RNA granules in transport and localization of mRNA in cells.

This content is only available as a PDF.