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Insulin-like growth factor II mRNA-binding protein (IMP) 2 is one of the three homologues (IMP1-3) that belong to a conserved family of mRNA-binding proteins. Its alternative splice product is aberrantly expressed in human hepatocellular carcinoma, and it is therefore identified as HCC. Previous works have indicated that IMP1/ZBP1 (zipcode binding protein) is critical in axon guidance and regeneration by regulating localization and translation of specific mRNAs. However, the role of IMP2 in the nervous system is largely unknown. We used the synapsin promoter-driven adeno-associated viral (AAV) 9 constructs for transgene expression both in vitro and in vivo. These viral vectors have proven to be effective to transduce the neuron-specific overexpression of IMP2 and HCC. Applying this viral vector in the injury-conditioned dorsal root ganglion (DRG) culture demonstrates that overexpression of IMP2 significantly inhibits axons regenerating from the neurons, whereas overexpression of HCC barely interrupts the process. Quantitative analysis of binding affinities of IMPs to β-actin mRNA reveals that it is closely associated with their roles in axon regeneration. Although IMPs share significant structural homology, the distinctive functions imply their different ability to localize specific mRNAs and to regulate the axonal translation.

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This article was published in Cells, Volume 10, Issue 10.

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Copyright © 2021 the authors. CC BY 4.0.