The immediate early gene Arc (also Arg3.1) produces rapid changes in synaptic properties that are linked to de novo translation. Here we develop a novel translation reporter that exploits the rapid maturation and “flash” kinetics of Gaussia luciferase (Gluc) to visualize Arc translation. Following glutamate stimulation, discrete Arc-Gluc bioluminescent flashes representing sites of de novo translation are detected within 15 s at distributed sites in dendrites, but not spines. Flashes are episodic, lasting ∼20 s, and may be unitary or repeated at ∼minute intervals at the same sites. Analysis of flash amplitudes suggests they represent the quantal product of one or more polyribosomes, while inter-flash intervals appear random, suggesting they arise from a stochastic process. Surprisingly, glutamate-induced translation is dependent on Arc open reading frame. Combined observations support a model in which stalled ribosomes are reactivated to rapidly generate Arc protein.
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