Localized translation plays a crucial role in synaptic plasticity and memory consolidation. However, it has not been possible to follow the dynamics of memory-associated mRNAs in living neurons in response to neuronal activity in real time. We have generated a novel mouse model where the endogenous Arc/Arg3.1 gene is tagged in its 3′ untranslated region with stem-loops that bind a bacteriophage PP7 coat protein (PCP), allowing visualization of individual mRNAs in real time. The physiological response of the tagged gene to neuronal activity is identical to endogenous Arc and reports the true dynamics of Arc mRNA from transcription to degradation. The transcription dynamics of Arc in cultured hippocampal neurons revealed two novel results: (i) A robust transcriptional burst with prolonged ON state occurs after stimulation, and (ii) transcription cycles continue even after initial stimulation is removed. The correlation of stimulation with Arc transcription and mRNA transport in individual neurons revealed that stimulus-induced Ca2+ activity was necessary but not sufficient for triggering Arc transcription and that blocking neuronal activity did not affect the dendritic transport of newly synthesized Arc mRNAs. This mouse will provide an important reagent to investigate how individual neurons transduce activity into spatiotemporal regulation of gene expression at the synapse.
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