Dendritic localization of the RNA-binding protein HuD in hippocampal neurons: association with polysomes and upregulation during contextual learning.
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The RNA-binding protein HuD binds to and stabilizes a number of neuronal-specific mRNAs. Recent work from our laboratory indicated that HuD expression is increased in neurons during peripheral nerve regeneration. To gain further insight into the function of this protein in CNS neurons we examined the levels of expression and localization of HuD in hippocampal neurons under normal conditions and in animals subjected to a learning paradigm, contextual fear conditioning (CFC). In the adult hippocampal formation, HuD immunoreactivity was highest in CA3 pyramidal neurons and interneurons in the hilus, moderate in the CA1 region and not detectable in dentate granule cells. Using confocal microscopy we found that HuD immunoreactivity was associated with large cytoplasmic granules in the neuronal cell body and smaller granules in dendrites. Both types of granules were also stained with the ribosomal marker Y10B, suggesting that they also contain ribosomes. Consistent with this idea, subcellular fractionation and immunoprecipitation analyses indicated that HuD is present in both the polysomal (P130) and cytosolic (S130) fraction. In addition to the basal pattern of HuD expression, we examined changes in the levels of this protein 24 h after rats were subjected to a single trial CFC paradigm. HuD protein expression was found to increase in the hilus and CA3 regions of the hippocampus but not in CA1. Our findings suggest that HuD plays a role in synaptic plasticity mechanisms stabilizing mRNAs associated with ribosomes both in the soma and dendrites of hippocampal neurons.