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Neurons and glia are highly polarized cells, whose distal cytoplasmic functional subdomains require specific proteins. Neurons have axonal and dendritic cytoplasmic extensions containing synapses requiring mRNA transport and localized translation to regulate synaptic plasticity efficiently. The principles behind these mechanisms are equally attractive for explaining rapid local regulation of distal glial cytoplasmic projections, independent of their cell nucleus. However, in contrast to neurons, this topic has received little experimental attention in glia. Nevertheless, there are many functionally diverse glial sub-types, containing extensive networks of long cytoplasmic projections with likely localized regulation that influence neurons and their synapses. Moreover, glia have many other neuron-like properties, including electrical activity, secretion of gliotransmitters and calcium signaling, influencing for example synaptic transmission, plasticity and axon pruning. Here, we review previous studies concerning glial transcripts with important roles in influencing synaptic plasticity, focusing on a few cases involving localized translation. We discuss a variety of important questions about mRNA transport and localized translation in glia that remain to be addressed using cutting-edge tools already available for neurons.

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glia, localized translation, mRNA localization, neuronal synaptic plasticity