Cell migration is a fundamental biological process involved in tissue formation and homeostasis. The correct polarization of motile cells is critical to ensure directed movement, and is orchestrated by many intrinsic and extrinsic factors. Of these, the subcellular distribution of mRNAs and the consequent spatial control of translation are key modulators of cell polarity. mRNA transport is dependent on cis-regulatory elements within transcripts, which are recognized by trans-acting proteins that ensure the efficient delivery of certain messages to the leading edge of migrating cells. At their destination, translation of localized mRNAs then participates in regional cellular responses underlying cell motility. In this review, we summarize the key findings that established mRNA targetting as a critical driver of cell migration and how the characterization of polarized mRNAs in motile cells has been expanded from just a few species to hundreds of transcripts. We also describe the molecular control of mRNA trafficking, subsequent mechanisms of local protein synthesis and how these ultimately regulate cell polarity during migration.

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